© 2015 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

“We’ve got to pass it to find out what’s in it”

“If you like your health insurance water right, you can keep it”

With three token “public meetings” under their belt, on Monday evening in Helena the compact commission voted to move the CSKT Water Compact forward to the legislature.

In front of an audience consisting largely of compact proponents, the compact commission fell all over themselves with self-congratulations for all their hard work, and the foregone conclusion was approved.

Shortly before that meeting, Melissa Hornbein, attorney for the compact commission released yet another version of the compact, mere hours before the vote.  A copy of the new compact version dated 01/12/15 can be found here.

So let us record what we know about the public process thus far:

  • 02/06/14 Tribal Council minutes state:  Rhonda Swaney, Legal Department, discussed a request from the State of Montana and United States to allow the State to assume authority of the Flathead Joint Board of Control for the compact. It was the consensus of council to proceed with the possibility of redrafting the compact.”
  • 03/31/14 Governor signals “limited reopening of negotiations”
  • 06/26/14 Chris Tweeten contacts tribe about a framework for renegotiation, one that will exclude irrigators.
  • In various WPIC meetings the tribe’s attorneys make it clear nothing in the compact  will change
  • 09/03/14 At first “renegotiation” session Chris Tweeten assures tribal attorneys that the abstracts and water awarded in the compact will not change.
  • 12/11/14 Governor issues press release that he and attorney general have solved the major problems in the compact, and  applaud the water compact “agreement”.
  • 01/07/15 New Compact Document released without appendices
  • 01/10/15 Some abstracts released shortly before Ronan public meetings are held
  • 01/10-01/11/15 Public meetings held in Ronan and Kalispell
  • 01/12/15 Compact Commission releases revised compact 2:30 p.m.
  • 01/12/15 Compact Commission votes to move compact to legislature 7:00 p.m.
  • 01/14/15 Revisions of 9 Compact Appendices remain incomplete / unfinished

Having participated in many of the public meetings including the most recent and  brain numbing of them all, we can convey the following observations concerning what we think has played out over the course of the past two years:

1)  The state and the governor had no intention of “addressing the concerns raised about the compact during the 2013 legislative session” as stated in his veto of SB265.  If they had serious intentions, they would have addressed them.

2) The process of negotiating behind the scenes and presenting decisions to the public  was no different in Compact 2.0 than it was in Compact 1.0.

3)  The compact commission’s decision to hold public meetings without a complete set of compact documents speaks to the fact that the meetings served simply to satisfy the minimum requirements of the law, and to get compact media coverage.  Who cares if the public or legislators don’t have a complete set of documents to review?  The compact is good for you because we say so.

4)  Chris Tweeten and Rhonda Swaney were true to their word.  Nothing substantive changed in the compact, but irrigators will get a valid counterfeit property right in the form of a Delivery Entitlement Certificate.

5)  Chris Tweeten thought the public meetings should be a debate instead of an opportunity for the public to comment.  In other words, the state presents all of their talking points and then the chairman of the commission gets to swat down the annoying public who dare say anything negative about his “magnificent” water compact.  We wonder if he realizes just how much nerve it takes for anyone on the reservation to get up and speak out against what is happening? To treat them disrespectfully is beyond the pale.

6)  As of the writing of this post a complete set of Compact 2.0 documents does not exist, and neither does a quantification.  The new compact is little more than a blank check, asking legislators to sign on the dotted line without knowing our understanding what is being conceded to the Federal Government / CSKT.  The Compact also asks legislators to violate their oath of office.

The state clearly has dropped all pretense of caring what the public’s concerns are about the compact, and instead are banking on the fact that the public will buy into Commission talking points that “we listened and have responded to your concerns”.  The newspapers are littered with false positive statements on the Compact, and how “hard” negotiators worked on the compact to give away Montana’s water.

We have heard through the grapevine that Attorney General Fox is concerned about the public process that played out with respect to this water compact, concerned that it makes him look bad.  Gee, Attorney General Fox, shouldn’t you be worried about the wholesale transfer of title to Montana’s water to the CSKT and federal government?

We have also heard that the state thinks that if the compact is passed, litigation will be expensive so the risk of Montanans filing a lawsuit to protect their property rights is minimal.

Too bad AG Fox isn’t more concerned with the contents of the documents.  Is he an attorney general first, or a politician?  You decide.