© 2016 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Because the Flathead Joint Board of Control stood its ground in 2012-2014 against the water compact and the state’s proposed water theft use agreement, it became necessary for the state to devise another means to ensure that their commitment to award all of the irrigation project water to the CSKT, and to significantly reduce irrigator’s water, was properly “supervised” by the beneficiaries of the state’s generosity.

What better way to accomplish that objective than to find a way to effectively replace the board of elected representatives for irrigators, and to circumvent federally mandated irrigator management of the project by creating a “team” that will render these things meaningless?  Once created, a “new board” could be used to implement the compact and ensure that irrigator water is continually adaptive managed ratcheted down and diverted away from agriculture, while at the same time turning what was an irrigation project into a fish farm.

Its name?  The Compact Implementation Technical Team or CITT.

Introduced during the 11th hour of “compact negotiations”, just ahead of the 2015 legislative session, this CITT was yet one more effort by the CSKT to ensure that the project served their needs, to the detriment of irrigators whose livelihoods rely on project water.  Remember, it is estimated that the CSKT compact proposes to reduce irrigator water deliveries by 40-70%.  Also keep in mind that the state intentionally left irrigators out of the “reopened negotiations“, and inserted themselves to “negotiate” on the irrigators behalf.

After decades of working to systematically dismantle and take over the Flathead Irrigation Project in the courts and through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the CSKT were handed their Coup de Grace when the state willingly awarded to them bare legal title for 100% of irrigation project water, and established a committee to ensure that the taking of water from the owners of the lands served by the project moved along as smoothly as possible.

The CITT was given an immediate effective date upon ratification of the compact by the state, and although the compact vote remains under legal challenge, the state has moved full steam ahead with their compact implementation plans.

So without any fanfare, or public notice to speak of, the appointees to the CITT, minus an irrigator appointed representative (perhaps), held their first meeting on December 3rd of last year.  While irrigators and the public were not notified of the meeting, two very vocal compact supporter irrigators knew about the meeting and attended:  Dick Erb, Flathead District Commissioner and ardent compact supporter, and Dan Salomon, local “representative” and a member of the compact commission.

Mr. Erb saw fit to tout the wonders of the CITT meeting and his support of the compact a month later at the Water Policy Interim Committee hearing in January:

 

So how was it that Mr. Erb and Dan Salomon were invited to the first CITT meeting when no one else was?

When asked about it at the recent FJBC meeting, Dick Erb, simply couldn’t “remember” but thought it was possible he’d received an email notification.

Gee, a reasonable person might think that only compact proponents are welcome at these so called PUBLIC meetings.

Page 48 of the proposed compact states the following about CITT meetings:

Public Meetings and Records:

  1. All regularly scheduled meetings of the CITT shall be open to the observation of the general public pursuant to State and Tribal open meeting laws. Where there is a conflict of laws, the law that provides for greater openness to the public applies.
  2. CITT records are public records and shall be made available to the public for inspection under such reasonable terms and conditions as the CITT shall establish.

Oops!

It is abundantly clear that the state of Montana had no interest in making the first CITT meeting public, and is likely trying to figure out how to ensure future meetings also remain closed.  We cannot help but wonder what the father of the CSKT Compact and CITT, Chas Vincent, might think about the transparency of the “team” he endorsed by his actions with compact ratification helped create.  To note:

  • The CITT meeting was not noticed in the local newspapers
  • The FJBC, who had requested notification of the meetings, and the public were completely ignored for purposes of this meeting
  • Only proponents of the compact seem to have been invited
  • Future notices for meetings will only be found on the CITT website, or the DNRC website, but it is up to the public to watch for them every day.  After all, it is not necessary to give a lengthy notice if you are used to skirting Montana’s open meeting laws.
  • Five hours of the meeting were not recorded due to a “technical glitch“.  Yeah right.  The subjects not recorded are relevant to the current FJBC lawsuit challenging the validity of the compact vote. Is that coincidence?  You decide.

When confronted by the board about his attendance at the meeting, Dick Erb was quite defensive and uncomfortable. Watch his reaction to being questioned by his fellow board members at this link:

 

Keeping all of this in mind, we would leave you with a few questions to consider:

  • The secrecy of the first CITT meeting doesn’t bode well for the compact, and did nothing to gain the “trust” of irrigators or the public.  It clearly shows the state’s distain for both. Do our state officials believe they can ignore public meeting laws now and in the future?
  • Did the state and feds know that their meeting to begin the process of taking irrigator’s water might be illegal without any irrigator representation?  Is that why they invited two proponent “irrigators” who would very likely keep silent about CITT plans?
  • Is it possible that the state knows it is on shaky legal ground with their ongoing and continued implementation of a compact that is under legal challenge and could very well be voided by the courts?
  • Is the CITT intended to be a WATER COMPACT PROPONENT ONLY CLUB, and as such, will it be an organization of special favors for proponents to the detriment of the majority of irrigators that oppose the theft of water that is taking place?
  • Is Dick Erb the “irrigator appointment” to the board unbeknownst to the public and to his fellow irrigators?  He denied this in the video, but had to have been “invited” for a reason.
  • As a commissioner of the Flathead Joint Board of Control,  did Erb have a responsibility to tell the joint board about the meeting before it took place?
  • Are the actions of this commissioner acceptable to irrigators? Is this the kind of representation that irrigators need or deserve?

Joint Board Elections will take place in May of this year, and several good commissioners, who oppose the compact, are facing re-election.

Irrigators must be vigilant to get the word out to ensure that the FJBC continues to stand firmly in opposition to the CSKT water compact and other efforts to dismantle the irrigation project and to convert its valuable water to other uses by the tribe, our state, and the Federal government.

 

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