© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
The purpose of the CSKT’s Federal Reserved Water Rights Compact is to quantify the amount of water necessary to fulfill the purpose of the Flathead Reservation.
Knowing this, we have been surprised to see how the compact commission has artfully guided the debate to be centered around how much water irrigators need, not HOW MUCH WATER THE TRIBE NEEDS. Let me say this loudly.
THIS COMPACT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO QUANTIFY IRRIGATOR WATER RIGHTS!!!!!!! IT IS SUPPOSED TO QUANTIFY THE TRIBE’S WATER RIGHTS ONLY!!!!!!!
When public comment documents were released in October 2012, Jay Weiner explained that while other compacts had the quantification up front in their documents, this one didn’t because although the quantification is important, the 1,000 or so pages of abstracts are more important or expedient for implementing the compact faster once it’s been ratified.
If providing numbers is an important part of getting the compact passed, we wonder why the commission has failed to provide them. In an effort to understand the water quantification we went through the 1.000 pages of abstracts and put together THIS CHART to show how much water is in the compact and how it compares to other tribal compacts in the state.
WHY HASN’T THE STATE PROVIDED THEIR OWN QUANTIFICATION NUMBERS?
The compact commission says our comparison chart is incorrect, but as of the writing of this post, they have not provided their own numbers. We think the following discourse that took place in 2011 may explain their unwillingness to tell Montanans how much water has been given to the tribe.
Here were comments / questions from the 02/09/11 and 08/02/11 Clark Fork Basin Water Management Taskforce meetings.
COMMENT – I have heard a rumor that the compact will not quantify the CSKT reserved water right. Without quantification, I am unsure how adverse affect will be determined.
QUESTION – Will the compact specify or cap the flow and volume of the CSKT reserved water right?
ANSWER BY JAY WEINER – Maybe. This is a complicated issue. IF THE RESERVED RIGHT IS QUANTIFIED NUMERICALLY (either by volume or flow rate), IT WILL LIKELY BE LARGER THAN THE AVAILABLE SUPPLY. The Compact Commission will seek sideboards on the use of the reserved right to protect existing water users.
SAY WHAT? LARGER THAN THE AVAILABLE SUPPLY? Really? The only way a reasonable person can read that statement is that the compact commission did in fact concede all of the waters on the reservation and most of the waters off the reservation to the tribe in this compact. They then proceeded to play a game of pretending to protect existing water rights, except for those of irrigators.