© 2014 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Yesterday the compact commission held their first “re-negotiation” meeting.  Starting 1/2 hour late, we listened to the state discuss its proposal to the CSKT for inserting the irrigator water use agreement into the compact.

To note were comments that the irrigators would no longer be “compelled” to give up their water right and their claims would be resolved in the adjudication process.  Additionally the state would ask the tribe to “consider” some kind of  arrangement to share shortages of water in dry years.

After that we heard the tribal attorney’s response to that proposal.  In their response, one attorney attempted to denigrate irrigators by explaining that the project desperately needed repairs because irrigators were not charged enough over the years.  They went on to say that this compact is the vehicle that can provide those repairs, so the parties better get the compact done posthaste.  Additionally the tribe  wanted to be clear about the finality of the agreed upon compact.

Mr. Tweeten was clearly taken aback by the finality comment and quickly assured the tribe that there will be no changes to the abstracts or the award of water in the compact (how much is that by the way?).  That means compact will continue to reflect the tribe’s claims to 100% of the water in the project, 90% of it with a time immemorial priority date and 10% with an 1855 date.  And apparently it will still include all the rest of the non project water on the reservation and their off reservation claims throughout western Montana.

In other words, these meetings ARE all about lipstick.

Senator Debby Barrett asked a very good question about “Adaptive Management” in the absence of state law, and whether federal law addresses it.  Her question was deferred, however not to worry, we were told that the tribe will be submitting a definitive, comprehensive adaptive management plan that we can assume will become state law if the compact is passed.

All of this sounds vaguely familiar, after all it was the tribe’s proposal we see mirrored in the Compact, the Water Use Agreement and the Unitary Management Ordinance documents we see today.

Exactly what were the compact commission and the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation being paid to do all these years?  Was their role only to develop talking points to cover up the illegalities that this compact represents, or were they supposed to develop a compact for the state that would result in an equitable division of water?

But we digress, let us get back to the “negotiations.”

There was no mention of the Unitary Management Ordinance by the “negotiators”, because, after all, that is NON-NEGOTIABLE by the CSKT.

Noticeably absent were the Joint Board of Control, commissioners duly elected by irrigators to represent their interests.  The state is no longer pretending that irrigators should have a say in the compact.  Perhaps this is because you are only allowed to have a seat at the table if you support the state’s efforts to give all the water and its management to the tribe.

Public comments were limited to three minutes, yet a tribal elder was able to get up and pontificate “to the audience” for about 15 minutes, explaining that opponents did not come to the meeting with good hearts, and assuring everyone that the tribe will treat them “fairly” after they get all the water.  Questions and comments were allowed, but the committee would not engage or respond to the public.  It was a very demeaning exercise, however we have learned to expect nothing different from the compact commission.

The only other aspect of the meeting worth mentioning is that after public comment, Mr. Tweeten felt the need to play to the sympathy of proponents of the compact explaining all of the abuse he has received by people opposed to the compact. Heaven forbid that anyone submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for his travel and meeting records, or that he was forced yesterday to listen to a read of his infamous “grand bargain” quote, where he cavalierly threw 28,000 people under the Unitary Management Ordinance bus.

Frankly it was disgusting to watch a grown man, the chairman of the state compact commission, whine about his perceived poor treatment by the public, and lament about all of his years as a “public servant”, all the while conspicuously chewing gum.   Actually in several public meetings he made it clear that he was serving the governor, not the public, but why knit pick the little details?

What he fails to understand, is that it is his blatant disdain for the public over the past two years, and the details of the compact that he is trying to sell, that make him such a controversial figure.  It comes with the territory Mr. Tweeten.  If you’re expecting to take all the credit for the compact, then you also have to accept the consequences.

Perhaps what he is privately lamenting is the fact that he couldn’t have his big party to celebrate the signing of the last tribal compact in the state, the national scope party he’d already started thinking about in August of 2012.  It must be very frustrating for him to have to think about putting Hilary Clinton on hold.

So we have now have to ask, will the real weiner whiner please stand up?