©2015 Montana Land and Water Alliance

This article discusses the Compact Implementation Technical Team (CITT) and its role as part of the overall plan of the CSKT Compact with respect to the Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP).

As discussed previously on these pages, the BIA issued a letter to individual irrigators strongly suggesting that they appoint one irrigator to the CITT.  In addition,  the state is also forming the CITT to work inside a federal irrigation project, in defiance of the court proceeding questioning the constitutional validity of the compact vote and possibly other state and federal laws.

We assert that the CITT cannot be implemented either by the State or the BIA inside the Flathead Irrigation Project (FIP) without Congressional ratification of the compact.  The FIP was constructed and is governed by at least a dozen federal statutes which prohibit the state and the federal government from reallocating water without acknowledging this legal  framework of the FIP.

How the Compact and CITT Work

After transferring the bare legal title of irrigation project water to the CSKT, the Compact converts nearly 80% of agricultural water use to instream flow and minimum reservoir levels, drastically reducing on farm delivery of water through a process called “adaptive management”. The CITT is the entity created by the Compact that implements “adaptive management” in the federal FIP.

(Note:  this “conversion of agricultural water use to instream flow” is a property taking and is why the state gave itself immunity from damages, costs, and attorneys fees.)

To make matters worse, and as the public predicted, contrary to state and federal law, there is no intent by the state or the federal government to conduct any economic or environmental study of this water use conversion.  The Compact called for immediate implementation of the CITT, and the intent is to begin this process before and during congressional review of the Compact.  The objective is to “cement in”  changes so that by the time Congress, the Water Court, and the Tribes’ executive approve the compact, it will be too late inside the FIP.

In our view, the CITT is an engine of and mechanism for the destruction of the FIP through “adaptive management”. Further, close examination of the BIA letter to irrigators shows an intent to turn over project operations and management to the CITT, not the landowners of the project.

What is Motivating the State and BIA?

The state is motivated by the potential for federal funds to match the Governor’s general fund use of $3 million dollars, if the CITT is formed by October 1, 2015.  The Governor’s budget is supporting this pre-implementation of the compact  since the legislature did not approve a formal appropriation for the Compact in the 2015 session.  A key to undermining the state and BIA’s attempt to implement the CITT is to ensure that Montana does not receive a federal match until Congress approves the Compact,  no matter what it is for.   Seemingly “benign” things like measuring devices could be used to hurt the project, not help it.

The State, however, has no authority to reach into a federal irrigation project to oversee or participate in the reallocation and conversion of agricultural water use to instream flow.

The BIA is motivated by multiple objectives:

  • to turn the project over to the Tribes via the CITT and the Compact, thereby negating the federal government’s responsibility under the 1908 and other Congressional acts.
  • to “forgive” the illegal transfer of the power division of the FIP to the CSKT through a “638” contract and the transfer of Kerr Dam to the CSKT. Note:  Both the transfer of the power division and the net power revenues made it into the last version of the compact.
  • to avoid accepting responsibility for the use and misuse of federal and irrigator funds throughout its tenure as project operator historically and currently in its position as interim project operator.
  • to avoid its malfeasance–and its eventual discovery– in refusing to recapture Kerr Dam in 1985

Do both the state and the BIA need  the irrigators’ “concurrence” and “intent to participate” in the CITT  to secure federal matching funds by October 1, 2015?   We believe this is why the pressure is on to implement the compact despite the FJBC’s lawsuit and behind the BIA’s scare tactic of letter writing on the CITT.

Ultimately, neither the State nor the BIA have any authority whatsoever to be forming, suggesting the formation of, participating in, or implementing the reallocation of water adaptive management  inside the FIP through the CITT.

Rolling the Dice–Gambling with the FIP Future

The state and compact proponents are betting on the irrigation community’s disintegration and division, and are using fear to force capitulation under the guise of having a ‘seat at the table’.

But that seat at the table will be one of five participants to implement, through the CITT and adaptive management, a reduction in agricultural water use to the FIP.  Thus, a seat at the CITT  table is then also a seat at the table of the FIP’s destruction.