© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Plastered on the front page of the last issue of Western Ag Reporter was an opinion piece from a local rancher spouting the wonders of the CSKT / Flathead water compact.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration, there are no wonders to espouse, but there are ongoing threats of litigation, if you don’t accept this compact we will end up like irrigators in the Klamath, and my favorite, “it will provide certainty for the future.”

For months now, I have puzzled over why any land owner, especially a reservation irrigator, would be willing to relinquish their water right to the tribe.  We are not talking junior water right here, we are talking RELINQUISHMENT.

The word relinquishment means to “voluntarily cease to keep or claim; give up”.  Article III part 3 of the Flathead Irrigation Project Water use agreement states:

“This Agreement and the Compact specify the terms under which the United States and the FJBC agree to withdraw and cease prosecution or defense of all claims to water, whether arising under Federal or State law, held in their names and filed in the  Montana General Stream Adjudication, and whatever permits and other rights to the use of water recognized under State law that are held in their names for use on lands served by the FIIP. In exchange for withdrawal of all such water rights and claims, the CSKT commit to the use for irrigation and Incidental Purposes of the water right.”

As an added bonus, secretarial water rights holders and non-project irrigators are also “invited” to relinquish their water rights for the same raw deal.

Not wanting to think the worst of those proponents who have become irrational in their attempts to force this agreement on their fellow irrigators, I have tended to believe that most of them are simply uninformed and have not read the documents, or perhaps they are tired of the tribe and compact commission’s unceasing threats of litigation.  We’ve also heard countless times that the tribe always wins in court, so let’s accept this so-called “deal” and move on.

But what if that is not the case?  What if they ARE INFORMED and know exactly what the compact will force upon them and their neighbors?  Then the story takes on a completely different light.  In that case it would mean that these people are willfully agreeing to relinquish their water right to the tribe, and worse yet, are willing to relinquish the rights of their families, friends and neighbors.  If this is the case, it would truly take things to another level.

Keep in mind, many of the more vocal proponents have raised their hands publicly when asked if they’d read the compact.

Instead of sticking with the facts of the compact documents, proponent’s letters to the editor attempt to marginalize and discredit those of us who oppose the compact. Outsiders, political activists, and so on.  In the estimation of these proponents, because some opponents may not have lived here for generations, they are not allowed to have an opinion.  To that I ask, are we living in a communist country or are we still living in America?  Are we not all created equal, and allowed freedom of speech and representation?  Are these proponents elitists who truly believe they are the only people who deserve to have an opinion, or the right to protect their property?  That’s how it comes across to me.

I guess you could call me old school.  A person’s word stands for something, and so does their opinion.  Before I express an opinion on an issue, I believe I’m personally obligated to not only understand the issue, but also to understand it’s foundational premises, and to think through its consequences.  Have proponents done their due diligence, and if they have, how did they accomplish it without any study or analysis of the compact yet completed?

So which is it?  Are proponents of the compact and water use agreement uninformed? Have they read through the documents? Do they really understand the monstrosity they are attempting to force down the throats of western Montanans?  Or is there something else going on here?

The next time you come across a proponent, ask them these questions:

  • Have you read the compact, the water use and other appendices?
  • If you have, why are you willing to relinquish your own and your neighbor’s water rights to the tribe?
  • How is it you can endorse an agreement that has had no studies done to determine its environmental or economic impacts?  Isn’t that like asking people to pass the bill and find out what’s in it later?
  • How do you know this compact will provide certainty for the future without a complete analysis of its implications?
  • Do you have any tribal “conflicts of interest” such as leases, or other business dealings that would compromise or influence your opinion of the compact?

Empower yourself by learning what you can about the compact.  Proponents of it are desperate and will do anything in their power to ram this compact through and force it upon the people before its details or implications are known.  Use your knowledge of the documents as an opportunity to inform them and others about the things they should be very concerned about.

Do not allow proponents to divide us. Arm yourself with knowledge and get involved now before it’s too late and your property rights and values are forever lost.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”      ~ Edmund Burke