© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Ravalli County has been hit from many different angles lately, especially concerning their water.

When the state’s proposal related to the CSKT compact came out in March 2012, many in Ravalli county were pleased that it did not include instream flow rights in the Bitterroot Basin, and instead focused on co-ownership of relatively minor existing storage water rights in Lake Como and Painted Rocks Reservoirs.

Last year when we met with Ravalli County Commissioners, their Deputy Attorney Howard Recht was very much on top of things.  Not only did he have concerns about the compact, but also about the other tribes whose aboriginal territory included the Bitterroot Valley, as well as other possible encroachments.

Now it seems that the US Forest Service is trying to get in the act.  They recently filed for water rights based upon a Forest Service compact negotiated in 2007 that allows them to file instream water rights for fisheries.  The Bitterroot National Forest has filed on five streams and plans to file for rights on 11 other streams.  Here’s a link to one of the many articles concerning this issue:  http://www.ravallirepublic.com/news/local/article_18e9154e-725d-11e2-b3be-0019bb2963f4.html

While we have not reviewed the document, it appears the Forest Service compact seems to have language in it that gives the USFS some kind of blank check concerning instream flows.  Since the CSKT /Flathead Reservation Compact did not provide for instream flows in the Bitterroot, it makes one a little more than suspicious that this action, including its timing, is somehow related.  But we digress.

Remember, reserved water rights exist for every federal reservation of land in the state, including national forests.  As our “busy as a bee” federal government actively increases it’s holdings in our state, each and every acre of land will have a water right associated with it.  As long as Montanan’s continue to allow this federal encroachment on our lands, our out of control government will continue to aggressively go after our water.

Ravalli county commissioners “get it”.  They are very concerned about their water and are speaking out against these encroachments on their limited water resources.  Here’s the letter they submitted to the Compact Commission concerning the CSKT / Flathead Water Compact.

Ravalli County Letter to MRWRCC

 If you have a chance, please contact the Ravalli County Commissioners and thank them for their efforts.

The time has come for all Montanans to stand together against attempts to control our water, lands, and resources.

We mentioned in an earlier article that perhaps an investigation of the compact commission is in order with respect to the CSKT Water Compact.  Perhaps other compacts negotiated by the commission should also be closely scrutinized as part of that review.