Note: To protect the privacy of the family referred to in this post, we have not provided a copy of the REVIEW ABSTRACT that is mentioned. We are hearing a great number of stories about the state significantly cutting back people’s water claims, forcing them to have to object or acquiesce. Please send us your story.
© 2016 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
If this doesn’t send a chill down people’s spines we don’t know what will.
We just received a copy of a “REVIEW ABSTRACT OF A WATER RIGHT CLAIM” issued by the DNRC for agricultural property situated within the exterior boundaries of the former Flathead Indian Reservation.
The family who forwarded the document recently purchased their property based upon the promise and normal transfer of a groundwater right that would support their agricultural business, a business that is historically associated with the ranch.
AFTER the closing on their property, the title company sent the new owners a letter explaining that they would not be transferring the water right from the former owners to the new owners because of concerns about the CSKT water compact.
Of course, this information was not made known to the purchasers at closing, it became known AFTER they had purchased their property and began making plans for their future. And of course, the title company insurance excluded “all things Indian and reservation related”, so the title company has done all it can to “protect” itself from any liability.
Now this: The state has added the following issue remark on the water claim for this property:
IT IS NOT CLEAR WHETHER THIS CLAIM IS A STATE-BASED WATER RIGHT OR PART OF THE TRIBAL WATER RIGHT AS DEFINED IN THE CONFEDERATED SALISH AND KOOTENAI – MONTANA COMPACT. ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE MAY BE REQUIRED BEFORE THIS CLAIM CAN BE DECREED.
How is it the water right might be “part of the tribal water right” when the well is located on private property?
What does this mean to the young family that purchased this land with a hope for a future agricultural enterprise? What implications could it have on the value of the property this family just purchased?
Does anyone have any doubts about where this water compact is headed?
Is this what compact proponents touted as the certainty and finality that we would all enjoy with the passage of the CSKT water compact?
As this post is being written, compact supporters have been very busy hitting the local letters to the editor, trying to convince irrigators that they should not support the litigation strategy of the Flathead Joint Board of Control, developed to protect a host of irrigator property interests related to the project.
We suppose that these compact supporters propose instead to acquiesce to the blatant destruction of agriculture and diminishment of property values that seems to be headed our way.
We also can’t help but wonder if the most aggressive and vocal compact supporter might soon wake up to find a similar issue remark on her VERY LARGE irrigation wells. If that happens, might she be singing a different tune?
To the Compact Commission and legislators who voted to ratify the water compact we ask:
You proposed to give the tribes the GRAND BARGAIN in exchange for their “promise” to PROTECT EXISTING USES OF WATER.
Isn’t this family’s situation exactly what the state spent decades negotiating to avoid? How is that working out?
Is anyone naive enough to think this kind of “problem” will magically disappear if the water compact is ratified and decreed in the water court?
A recent report by the DNRC covering the Clark Fork and Kootenai River basins says consumptive uses of water in western Montana are less than 2% of the total supply of water.
If this DNRC report is accurate, why would this family or any other have to worry about losing their historic agricultural use of water or the possible diminishment of their property values?
Because the state ceded everything to the tribe, and gave themselves financial immunity while at the same time telling their “subjects” that studies weren’t necessary to determine the economic and other adverse impacts of the compact.
The mask appears to be coming off the monster a little sooner than the state and tribes had intended. But one thing is clear: the state of Montana intends to give its water to the federal government, the needs of its citizens be damned.