In December 2013, four rogue commissioners of the Mission and Jocko Valley irrigation districts collapsed the Flathead Joint Board of Control of the Flathead Irrigation Project.  An unintended consequence of the commissioner’s failure to consider the consequence of their decision was the demise of the Cooperative Management Entity, the organization that manages daily operations of the project and ensures water deliveries to irrigators.  On March 11, 2014 the BIA began taking steps to reassume project operations.

By all appearances, it would seem that the Bureau of Indian Affairs intends to make the takeover as painful as possible to all parties involved, including increased expenses for putting employees on the federal payroll.  Additionally we are documenting evidence that the BIA is implementing policies that serve to pre-implement portions of the irrigation water use agreement, the document that was ruled to be an unconstitutional taking in February 2013.

On 04/02/14 The Flathead Irrigation District filed suit for declaratory and injunctive relief concerning the project turnover issue.  On 07/28/14, a more assertive  Amended Turnover Complaint was filed.  It says in part:

  • The BIA’s recent takeover of operation of the Project in violation of the plain language of the FAA harms the landowners in the Project.
  • FJBC and FID ask the Court to issue a declaration and corresponding prospective injunctive relief having the effect of requiring federal officials to obey a 1908 Act of Congress that mandates the transfer of the management and operation of the Flathead Project to the “owners of the lands irrigated thereby.”
  • Defendants have adopted and have been pursuing a policy and practice regarding this issue that is contrary to law, willfully refusing to obey mandates of Congress, acting or failing to act with recalcitrance in the face of their clear statutory duties or in abdication of their substantive statutory responsibilities and mandates.
  • The FJBC requests a declaratory judgment that in fact the United States has since the early 1990’s allowed the operation of the Power Division of the Project in contravention of the 1948 Act in a variety of ways that will be demonstrated through the course of this litigation.

When you see the Joint Board Commissioners, be sure to thank them for their resolve and for the strength of their amended complaint.  The DOI / BIA has asked for and been granted an extension of time to respond to the FJBC’s Amended Complaint until October 13, 2014.

Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.  Here’s a link to the Amended Turnover Complaint in its entirety.

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