© 2014 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

On Tuesday May 13th, 2014, the Water Policy Interim Committee will be meeting in Helena to discuss various components of the Flathead Water Compact.  Here is a link to their agenda and public documents.  Included on the list are two letters sent between governor Bullock and the CSKT tribal chairman, Ron Trahan:

Dear Chairman Trahan,

I enjoyed our February 26 discussion and appreciate your commitment to the proposed water compact between the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes. I am likewise convinced that negotiated settlement represents the best resolution for the people of Montana. The June 30, 2015 deadline for the Tribes to file their claims in the statewide general stream adjudication means that the 2015 legislative session represents the final opportunity for the legislature to approve the Compact prior to the filing of claims.

The recent dissolution of the Flathead Joint Board of Control and reassumption of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project by the Bureau of Indian Affairs leaves the Compact without the protections for FIIP irrigators that were previously negotiated as the “Water Use Agreement.” I would like to extend to the Tribes a formal invitation to reopen negotiations with the State for the purpose of resolving this issue so that legislation may be presented to the 2015 legislature. The State believes that negotiations concerning FIIP water use should be based upon the same premise that motivated the initial negotiations –namely, that irrigation deliveries will be protected and that water saved through upgrades and repairs to the FIIP will be allocated to Tribal instream flows.

With a renewed commitment by all parties, both to additional negotiations and to public outreach and education, I believe that we have an historic opportunity to assure recognition of Tribal water rights in a manner that protects water users and allows communities to develop and thrive both on and off the Reservation. I appreciate the Council’s continued commitment to this outcome and look forward to further productive discussions.



Chairman Trahan responded as follows:

Dear Governor Bullock:

Thank you for your letter of March 31, 2014 in which you acknowledge that the recent dissolution of the Flathead Board of Control and the reassumption of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project by the Bureau of Indian Affairs leaves the Tribes’ proposed compact and exhibits with some problems.

The Tribal Council considered these problems and is prepared to engage in a narrow reopening of negotiations.  The Council authorized reopening negotiations for the single purpose of revising the Water Use Agreement and incorporating it into the Compact.

Since the Bureau of Indian Affairs has reassumed the management of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project, they will be a necessary party to the negotiations and signatory to the agreement.  We are providing them a copy of this letter for their information.

We anticipate the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, the United States and the Tribes will be the parties to these limited negotiations.

We look forward to discussing how to move forward.


Ronald Trahan signed by Carol Lankford


These letters make it abundantly clear that irrigators interests in this so called “narrow reopening of the compact” will be at the mercy of three parties who continue to advocate for the interests of the CSKT.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Tribe and the Compact Commission will all be at the table determining what is in the best interest of the irrigators, under the guise of providing irrigators with “protections” for their water.

Governor Bullock and the compact commission all seem to hold a very twisted and perverted sense of what the term “protection” might mean. Do they really believe that the forced relinquishment of irrigators valuable project water rights in exchange for a one size fits all allotment of the CSKT’s water that is nowhere close to historical usage is protection?

The tribe will represent their interests at the table, the BIA will represent the tribe’s interest as well.  For all intents and purposes, the actions of the compact commission in conceding to the CSKT their wildest dreams come true in the form of this compact, is also an advocate for tribal interests.

How does anyone believe this reopened negotiation is little more than a continuation of the farce that’s already been presented to the public in the form of a water compact and water use agreement?

If there is any doubt where this is going, or where the tribe is headed, please review their recently filed lawsuit that clearly states their agenda with respect to all land and water on the reservation.