Note: With the power brokers in Helena doubling down on the water compact, and significant amounts of
taxpayer tribal money being spent in a huge media campaign to distance the CSKT from the compact, and to make it appear to “protect all Montanans water rights”, we are grateful to know that people are not fooled by any of it. Our thanks to Aubyn Curtiss and the Lincoln County Central Committee for this letter to Lincoln County representatives concerning the compact.
Chas, Mike & Jerry,
This is a heads up to inform you that your Central Committee voted to adamantly oppose the CSKT Compact and expects you to vote accordingly. As written, it is flawed in too many ways to be remedied by amendments.
It is unconstitutional! It seeks to overturn Article IX, Section 3 of the Montana Constitution and it pits the machinations of the Reserved Water Rights Commission on behalf of the tribes and the federal government against the long held tenets of Montana water law and the Montana Water Court. So it becomes a States’ Rights Issue.
It is prejudicial in that it holds tribal and non-tribal water users to different standards. Tribal water use is set at a far higher standard than all other water right holders, as well as Irrigation Districts throughout the state Not one of the six previously negotiated compacts grants a tribal entity authority over non-reservation water. What is to preclude any, or all, of them from seeking the same consideration? What is to preclude the Salish/Kootenai from bringing suit at a later date to seek more authority, e.g. the Crow’s action.
The Compact erodes the authority of the Water Court and allows a reservation entity the ability to oversee water issues and property rights both on and off the reservation—a board, the members of which, are required to have no knowledge of water law. There is no way to justify compromising the authority of Montana’s Water Court and granting oversight of Western Montana water to enrich this tribal corporation.
The entire adjudication process loses its value if the tribes are exempted from compliance. Millions have been spent to comply with the adjudication mandates to establish how much Montana water is being put to a beneficial use, where, and by whom. The Salish/Kootenai have not quantified water they are claiming to have put to a beneficial use, rather resorting to some previously unrecognized modeling system so even Montana’s long recognized “first in time, first in right” doctrine loses its value?
How are we to understand the allocation of greater volumes of water allocated to tribal members than to non-indians? How does that square with equal treatment under the law?
“Negotiated” becomes a misnomer when applied to this compact. What have the Salish/Kootenai offered in return for unlimited access and control of our Western Montana water resources? They remind me of an attorney negotiating for the Crow when asked what they wished to put forward in their compact, he replied: “Why do that when we already have everything there is to gain and nothing to lose.”
“Their “Everything To Gain” for the tribes” in the CSKT compact is mind-boggling! The promise of 1.2 billion from the federal government and another 55 million from the state of Montana, plus control of Western Montana water use should be way more than enough. However, along with the ability to control downstream use (Kerr Dam)(Hungry Horse Dam), comes the potential to control the water level of Flathead Lake and ultimately the value of lakefront property so private property rights may also be added to the equation.
We have been told repeatedly that authorization of this Compact will save millions. We strongly disagree and believe the courts will be clogged and backed up. It stands to reason that passage of this compact will result in the loss of innumerable citizen’s water rights which under the law constitutes a “taking” for which that owner must be compensated. Should lakeshore property be devalued because of fluctuating water levels, that too could be viewed as a “taking” which could end up in the court system. It is a sobering thought to consider that In any contested case it will be some hapless Montana citizen vs. the U.S. Justice Department litigating on behalf of the Reservation Corporation.
Anyone can recognize that this is a win/win for the Tribes as they are asking for it all, and this Compact appears to be conceding to their every demand. We know that this will be costing Montana 55 million.
We have examined the negative scenarios. What we want to know is what, if anything, does Montana stand to gain in what appears to be the largest giveaway in Montana history? A giveaway for all time!
Only you have the ability to say “no” on behalf of your constituents and thousands of Montanans.
We do not plan to be silent about our position on this critical issue.
Aubyn Curtiss, Chairman
Lincoln County Republican Central Committee