GOVERNOR AND AG’S OFFICE REACH A COMPACT DEAL?
In our last update, we suggested that people keep in mind that anything is possible concerning the water compact and the upcoming legislative session. The push is on. This past Wednesday, the state announced that the attorney general’s office had stepped in to save the day on the water compact.
This big announcement is little more than an attempt to make the public think the problems with the compact have been addressed in the new and improved version. The truth is that nothing substantive has changed. In fact, the state promised the tribe that not a drop of water would change, and to the best of our knowledge, neither did anything else. One could argue that instead of addressing irrigators concerns, the state removed them from the table, and inserted a representative from the AG’s office and the Governor’s office in their place.
We know that the announcements of all of the additional protections built in for irrigators are nothing more than an attempt by the state to garner momentum for the compact. This kind of behavior validates just how flawed and dysfunctional the compacting process is. As we’ve said many times before, the state of Montana is interested in a compact no matter what the cost to its citizens or the future of our state.
It is our opinion that this latest activity is little more than the Attorney General’s office trying to use its office to give the water compact some type of respectability and to make it appear to now be legal and constitutional, when in fact nothing has changed. “Do the actions of the AG/Governor reflect their concern about the MLWA lawyers? We think so. After all, these attorney work products demonstrate CLEARLY that the CSKT Compact violates the Montana and US Constitutions and violates state water law.”
COMPACT TIMELINE – A revised compact is expected out in the next two weeks, and the public will be allowed to comment (we assume that is by mail or email) because it did not sound as though public meetings will be held. After the public comment period, the compact commission will meet and vote to move the compact forward to the legislature. We are not sure what the timing is for that vote, or for the submission of the compact to the 2015 legislature.
EXPECT ENDORSEMENTS OF THE NEW AND IMPROVED COMPACT – We fully expect that the state will go on a full blown out effort to gather big names under the compact proponent list. Take for example, Ryan Zinke, our one and only congressional delegate to the US House of Representatives. Zinke opposed the compact when campaigning for our votes, but now supports it. At least that is the word in this Charkoosta article where he recently visited the tribal council revolving politician door. Add Zinke to the list of dupes who have no idea what’s in the compact but chooses to support it anyway.
SENATOR JACKSON IN THE WESTERN AG REPORTER
This week’s Western Ag Reporter includes an article titled: The Hell Gate Treaty Forbids Off Reservation Water Rights Contained in the CSKT Compact. Please read this article on our blog, or contact the Western Ag Reporter and support them with a subscription. They’ve been more than fair in covering information about the water compact.
UPCOMING 2015 LEGISLATURE
We ask the public to keep an eye on any bills and legislative activity related to the compact, because anything is possible concerning proponents efforts to ram it through the legislature.
Please be prepared to respond to our requests for trips to Helena or calls to legislators. We will need as many opponents as possible to let legislators know they are still engaged, and still oppose the water compact. Do not let the “renegotiated compact” language fool you. In other words the same egregious aspects of the compact will remain in the final document submitted to the 2015 legislature.
We fully expect the next few months to be a roller coaster ride. Please do not get discouraged. We defeated the compact in 2013 and by ramping up our efforts, can do it again in 2015.
KERR DAM UPDATES
Tick, tock, the clock is still running on the tribe’s acquisition of Kerr Dam. Do not be surprised if they try to make a play to take over the dam much earlier than the September 2015 date prominently displayed on their highway 93 billboard.
We have reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seems unwilling to give Senator Verdell Jackson’s serious concerns about the transfer of Kerr Dam to the CSKT. In early November, he responded to their latest rebuff of his efforts to hold public meetings to discuss the Kerr Dam licensing to the tribe. Find that letter here.
On 11/26/2014 the Montana Public Service Commission Submitted a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission requesting that public hearings be held on the transfer of the Kerr Dam license to the CSKT. You can read that letter at this link.
MONTANA STOCK GROWERS COMPACT RESOLUTION
We just returned from the Montana Stock Growers Convention in Billings. At the convention, compact proponents proposed three different resolutions in support of the compact, the Rocky Mountain Stock Growers submitted one resolution opposing it, and a fifth, more neutral resolution was also added to the mix.
The neutral resolution was ultimately approved. It essentially states that the organization would support a compact that protects and enforces water and property rights including historical water usage both on and off the reservation. While this resolution was okay, it was disappointing to see an organization that purports to be strong on property rights choose to not take a stronger stand by opposing the compact. Apparently controversial issues are resolved by trying to appease everyone, rather than taking a stand on principle.
While Eastern Montana ranchers understand the Bison and Sage Grouse issues to be about restriction and control on lands in eastern Montana, they fail to see the water compact as essentially the same thing, but in a different part of the state. The fear of the tribe’s threat of filing 10,000 water claims throughout the state is why some of them seem willing to throw their western Montana constituents under the bus.
Our hats off to the Rocky Mountain Stock Growers for their hard work drawing attention to this all important issue, and for forcing the Stock Growers to pay attention.
MONTANA LAND AND WATER ALLIANCE
Concerned Citizens of Western Montana has dedicated most of the past two and a half years to developing and providing factual information about our serious concerns with the proposed water compact for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). Instead of responding to these concerns, the negotiating parties have simply doubled down by making little if any substantive changes to the compact and keeping essentially the same agreement alive for the upcoming 2015 legislative session.
While we will continue our public education efforts, and to work with legislators in the hope that they will ultimately say no to this dangerous and destructive “agreement”, we also understand the necessity of taking far stronger action in advance of and in response to the state’s ongoing refusal to provide for an equitable division of waters, their continued insistence on expanding federal reserved water rights into something that is no longer recognizable, and their general failure to protect the existing and historical uses of water of its citizens.
A reliable source told us that highly placed Montana officials believe that once the CSKT water compact is ratified, Montanans will not be able to afford to sue to protect their water and property rights. IN OTHER WORDS, MONTANA IS COUNTING ON THE FACT THAT WE WILL NOT TAKE ACTION TO DEFEND OUR PROPERTY RIGHTS.
The Montana Land and Water Alliance was organized by Concerned Citizens of Western Montana to:
1) defeat the compact by whatever means possible, including pre-emptive actions at the legislative level by continuing to inform and educate legislators about the major problems with it, and continuing research and publication, and
2) take legal action on the compact should legislators ignore the legal and constitutional issues with the compact and pass it anyway.
Our thanks to all of you who have provided us with the financial support necessary to achieve our initial funding goals. As successful as that effort has been, even more help is needed to continue this effort. For more information please check out our website.
Eleven counties in western Montana are directly impacted, but the implications to the compact reach out to all of Montana and other western states. Please help us get the word out, and donate to our legal fund today. Your assistance is urgently needed and greatly appreciated.
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