© 2014 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Yesterday the compact commission issued the following two documents related to the “narrow reopening” of the water compact to “negotiate” and insert a new and improved irrigator water use agreement into the water compact.  Here are the two documents for your reference:

Cover letter

There really is nothing new in these documents, except for the fact that the compact commission is inserting itself at the table publicly instead of their behind the scenes machinations that took place with the first agreement.  At least the state is now openly admitting their involvement instead of the cagey “private agreement that we’re not involved with” fairy tale they were spinning.

We ask you to review the two brief documents (7 pages combined) and to consider a few questions about the state’s proposal:

Is it believable that after 10 years of the kabuki theater of “public negotiations”, that negotiations will indeed be public?  Or will they continue to be done behind the scenes?

Will the legal / technical meetings referenced be open or closed to the public?

A very reliable source has told us that it was the state that contacted the old Joint Board of Control and asked them to consider the relinquishment of their project water rights to the tribe in the current water use agreement.  Can irrigators really have confidence that the state will “protect” their interests in any new agreement that could essentially be the same as the old one?

Why is it that irrigators, who own 90% of the project lands need protection from the claims of the tribe?  Is it because the compact commission gave away the whole enchilada, completely ignoring the rules and guidelines established in the courts for Federal reserved water rights and must now give lip service to protecting existing uses of water?

The documents mention that the old water use agreement is defunct because of the collapse of the old joint board of control.  Is this merely a way for the parties to potentially eliminate the sticky problem of the CB McNeil ruling that the old agreement was an unconstitutional taking without compensation, or to circumvent the writs of prohibition that currently exist for the currently proposed water use agreement?

Montana has a very liberal public right to know and participate policy.  Is the fact that the state is willing to place “restrictions” on public comment one more capitulation of state sovereignty and the legal rights of Montana citizens to the tribe / United States within reservation boundaries?

At a recent WPIC meeting tribal attorney Rhonda Swaney stated that the existing agreement will not be changed, it simply will be inserted into the compact as is.  Why should the public believe there will be any substantive changes that will serve to protect irrigators?

Will the state’s more “general” approach serve to hide the unpalatable details of the water use of agreement in the compact, or to mask the same bad deal in an attempt to slide it by irrigators and decision makers?

In February the tribe filed a very aggressive lawsuit claiming all the land and water within the historical boundaries of the reservation.  The compact and water use agreement have essentially the same elements.  Will negotiations at this time compromise irrigators with respect to their defense of the lawsuit, or the lawsuit against the Department of Interior related to project operations?

Stay tuned for more.