©2015 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

A related aspect of keeping the public apprised of the CSKT Compact  in this blog has been to gather, organize, and read as many  historical documents as possible relevant to the origin and history of the Flathead Irrigation and Power Project (FIPP) the relationship of Kerr Dam to the Project, and the relationship of these to the CSKT Compact.  This essay briefly addresses the relationship between the FIPP and Kerr Dam as gleaned from just a few of the documents reviewed.

While many of these documents are public documents that can be and have been found on the internet, in county court houses, in the Missoula Federal Records Center,  or through some good old fashioned legwork, to organize and assemble the legal, legislative, and factual record of these issues forms an important historical record.

The history of this irrigation project and Kerr Dam must never be forgotten as knowledge ensures that this vital irrigation project continues to provide for generations to come.  The circumstances of the day–the Compact, Kerr, the BIA and FIPP–require it.

Let’s put a few of these conclusions out there for review.

  • Flathead Irrigation and Power SignThe Flathead Irrigation and Power Project was initially designed and built by the Reclamation Service (now Bureau of Reclamation), not the BIA.  By 1924, the year in which operation and maintenance of the project was turned over to BIA, 60% of the project had been completed.  As a Reclamation Project, continued construction of FIP after 1924 followed Reclamation plans, used Reclamation engineers, and employed Reclamation financing and repayment methods.  Reclamation was still around in 1985 operating and managing the FIP for the BIA.
  • The United States reserved or appropriated water for the irrigation project including the water in the upper 9 feet of Flathead Lake for irrigation and power purposes.  This is 1.2 million acre feet.  The U.S. reserved a 9 foot easement around Flathead Lake for reservoir fluctuations due to use by irrigation or power in 1909.
  • The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act did not apply to lands with appurtenant water rights within a reclamation project (federal irrigation projects on Indian reservations), meaning it does not apply within the FIP.
  • Power was always a part of the FIPP because pumping from the Flathead River was incorporated into the design by Reclamation engineers.  Net revenue from the power distribution was to be used to repay the United States for the cost of the irrigation Project including power development and was codified in 1928.
  • The water rights reserved or appropriated by the United States for the FIP and power were licensed by the Federal Power Commission (now FERC) to be used (not given away) by the Kerr facility to generate power. This 1.2 million acre feet of water became part of the”project works” of the  Kerr Dam FERC license  to be used for irrigation and power.
  • A block of power was provided to the federal FIPP in compensation for the use of the water, and the Project (United States) given the right to market any excess power.  The net revenue from this marketing of power is then available to the FIPP for six purposes outlined in the 1948 Repayment Contract, all for repayment of construction costs and operation and maintenance.
  • Since 1985, when the BIA split the power and irrigation divisions,  the net power revenues have been spent on everything else but irrigation.  Even if these funds were occasionally spent on fish ladders, screens or habitat restoration in the irrigation project, these expenses are not an authorized use of net power revenues.

Putting all of this together, and using additional legal, historical,and legislative documents  helps to identify strategies going forward.  Without such historic or “institutional” knowledge it is impossible to be strategic and this deficit may promote careless, potentially reckless, and costly action, just to have action.

Truth and History Deniers

The list of facts above are all things that have been and continue to be denied by the BIA, the CSKT, the state of Montana, and the Department of the Interior.  Their denial is a clear and present danger to us all.

Regarding the truth of these facts, and how they all related to the Compact, none of this was very well received by the BIA, CSKT, Compact Commission, or compact proponents and their supporters.  Rather than acknowledge these facts, and the truth, the proponents chose to discredit and assassinate the messengers through untruthful statements and innuendo.

We know that the state could not defeat the arguments raised by the CCWM or the MLWA, and had to pass the compact by discrediting opponents, lying about the Compact,  changing the rules, and spending millions of dollars.

To this day, proponents of the Compact and others involved in dastardly deeds against the irrigators continue to employ these tactics, as well as to cause disarray and chaos. All this generates conflict and mistrust, which is what it is designed to do. What better way to break a community than divide it?

The only way to defeat this chaos is to be informed.  It’s true–the truth will set you free!

Beware Quick Fixes to “Everything”

As we have reviewed tons of materials regarding the Compact and other subjects, the realization dawns that the Tribes have been waging war against residents here for 50 years. And now federal objectives coincide with the Tribes’ expansive and aggressive actions, because of the Tribes’ status as being under federal control. Thus any “quick fix” action that promises to resolve all those problems is ill advised.  In fact, we can be sure the Tribes, the federal government, and the State are hoping we trip and fall in our efforts to stop them from stealing property rights, and a sure way to do that is to make mistakes by acting without full information.

A plan to defeat this compact  must be well thought-out, informed, strategic, and effective.  Beware of anyone who says they can act now and fix this overnight.