© 2015 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Yesterday the Flathead County Commissioners approved a letter of opposition to the CSKT Water Compact to be submitted to the Governor, Attorney Generals office as well as legislators and other decision makers.  Their letter reads:

Governor Bullock and General Fox:

We oppose the proposed CSKT Reserved Water Rights Compact (“CSKT Compact”) as currently written. It will be harmful to Flathead County, as well to the rest of Montana and neighboring states.

This proposed CSKT Compact is the last one to be negotiated in Montana. The other six Montana reservations have entered water right compacts. Significantly, the other six compacts do not grant off-reservation water rights. The proposed CSKT Compact–for the first time–grants these off-reservation water rights to a tribe, which is a new type of water right, and not supported by the Treaty of Hellgate.

A comparison with the other six compacts demonstrates the significance of adding off-reservation water rights. The average acre feet per tribal member for the other six compacts is 88 acre feet of water. For the CSKT, the average acre feet per tribal member is 6,827 acre feet of water which is 77 times more water than the average for the other six reservations tribal members. [We enclose a chart comparing the seven compacts.]

We strongly object to granting off-reservation water rights to the CSKT. It will have dire consequences to our citizens and businesses that own property and live in Flathead County. We consider it significant that on December 30, 2014, the Flathead Joint Board of Control of the Flathead, Mission and Jocko Valley Irrigation Districts passed a resolution “strongly oppos[ing]” the proposed CSKT Compact [copy enclosed].

We also object to Montana taxpayers writing a check to the CSKT Tribe for $55 million. For more than a century and a half, the federal government has had sole responsibility for supporting the Tribes. We have seen no justification for Montana taxpayers starting to assume this responsibility.

Finally, we have concerns that the proposed Compact may not comply with Article IX of the Montana Constitution.

We ask that the following changes be made to the proposed Compact:

  1. Provide a specific amount of water “quantification” of the federal reserved water right for the reservation, on the reservation.
  1. Eliminate the mutual defense clause in Article VIII of the Compact, so that Flathead County citizens will not have to fight the State of Montana when defending their water rights.
  1. Bring the Compact in compliance with Article IX of the Montana Constitution.

4. Eliminate the requirement that Montana taxpayers write a check to the CSKT Tribe for $55 million dollars (or any amount of money).

5.  That all claims of off-reservation water rights be removed from the proposed CSKT Compact.

Our hope is that the proposed Compact can be revised to identify and protect the CSKT’s reserved water rights on the reservation and to protect the rights of the citizens of Flathead County. If it cannot be so revised, we urge the legislature to vote “no” on the proposed Compact and allow a resolution of these issues in the Montana General Stream Adjudication, which will lead to a fairer result.

This letter supersedes the previous two letters dated January 3 and October22, 2014.

A copy of the letter can be found here.