Attached are recent documents that provide insight into the goals of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact. Although not specifically written into Indian treaties, judges have ruled that water is needed to make land productive in order to fulfill the purposes of any federal reservation of land. Therefore Indian reservations are entitled to “federal reserved water rights” to meet the purposes of their reservation which in most cases is for agriculture. The CSKT Reservation was opened to settlement in 1909 by Presidential Proclamation with the promise that the federal government would plan and fund the construction of the Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP), along with Kerr Dam to serve all interests, Indian and non-Indian alike. Approximately 130,000 acres on the Reservation are irrigated in some years with over 500,000 acre feet of water out of the Mission Mountains, the Flathead River and storage in Flathead Lake. Existing Tribal uses of water include 270,000 acre feet of instream flow in the tributaries contributing to and flowing through and a part of the (FIP), wetland maintenance, off-project fisheries, hydropower, and other environmental and cultural uses. Ground water is plentiful. All of this was done to make the Reservation productive. If it can be proven that the Reservation, to fulfill its purposes, needs additional water to irrigate additional irrigable land or other purposes then additional water needs to be allocated. It is not a legitimate purpose of the Reservation to sell water back to people who have lost their access to water because of the Compact.
However, absolute control of surface and irrigation ground water both on and off the Reservation appears to be the goal of the CSKT which affects 350,000 people in 11 counties. The Compact and the purchase of Kerr Dam are somewhat subtle in achieving their goal, but the Lawsuit (attached) is straight forward and easy to understand. The Lawsuit has basically the same content as the Compact. CSKT filed the lawsuit in federal court because a federal court is more likely to rule in favor of the Tribe. The Kerr Dam sale (motion to intervene in FERC Kerr Dam License is attached) will give the Tribe most of the components in the Compact.
Senator Verdell Jackson, Flathead County