©2016 Montana Land and Water Alliance
As if the CSKT Compact could not get any worse, Senator Tester’s
“tweaks” rewrite of the CSKT Compact actually is worse than the original document! While the basic odiferous onerous components of the old compact are still incorporated,
the new Compact makes it clear where the Tribes/United States are going: the complete takeover and decommissioning of the Flathead Irrigation Project.
Tester’s S. 3013 proposes the federal turnover of the project to the CSKT and $2.3 billion not to “fix” the project, but really to decommission it through “repair” of all the habitat damage done by the project to the reservation. You won’t find the words “decommission” in the Tester bill, but it can easily seen by the description of the projects undertaken with the “irrigation development fund”.
In the meantime, the 1908 Act requires that the project be turned over to the landowners within the project, including Tribal members. And those discussions are in court-mediated proceedings right now.
Need any more proof that the world is upside down right now?
MLWA Letters to Congress
The letters posted below were FAXED to Senator Tester and those on the copy list. The letter to each Senator/Congressman was emailed to each office.
The Alliance’s immediate response was to write a letter of objection to Senator Tester and copy that letter to a few key congressmen. We advised him again of the fact that the Compact has not yet made it out of Montana, and that it would be tied up in legal proceedings for the foreseeable future. Excerpts from that letter can be found below:
Your approach to resolving these difficult and important state issues, and to work around on-going critical litigation, was to completely rewrite the CSKT Compact which does not address any of the problematic issues at hand in Montana. In doing so you have exacerbated the existing problems with the original CSKT Compact which already rewrites the history of agricultural development in western Montana, federal-state relations, federal-Tribal relations, and the Treaty of Hellgate. The rewrite added a required reinterpretation of the 1887 General Allotment Act.
And don’t forget all the violations of federal law that continue to go unanswered in the CSKT Compact and S. 3013, including
the 1902 Reclamation Act, 1904 Flathead Allotment Act (FAA), and 1908 Amendment to the FAA, 1920 Federal Power Act, 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, the Winters Doctrine, and numerous federal contracts with irrigation districts existing since 1926. All of these Congressional acts continue to apply to the lands and waters within the exterior boundaries of the Flathead Reservation.
Members of Congress
Because this is the last year of the Obama administration, anything could happen with Senator Tester’s bill, and it could be attached to some benign or “must-have” bill and Congress wouldn’t know any differently. The Alliance goal was therefore to let all of Congress know via another letter, with excerpts below.
We write to first inform you that S. 3013 is not the Compact that was produced in Montana and was rewritten completely by Senator Tester. Importantly, S. 3013 does not address or resolve any of the issues in Montana.
Senator Tester was informed of these matters in February of this year… In light of this information we are astonished that the Senator would attempt to rewrite and introduce the actual legislation that is still in a Montana state court and not ready for any kind of Congressional review.
We respectfully submit that Senator Tester’s bill, S. 3013, is irrelevant to the settlement of the water rights in Montana. The actual Montana-U.S.-CSKT Compact has not yet left Montana and should not be acted upon or even considered by Congress, committee, or as part of any appropriations or other bill.
The Battle is NOT Over
The introduction of Senator Tester’s bill is an important development to look out for, even though the Senator and other Congressionals admit it is “going nowhere”. We do not take anything for granted, however–who knows if this is the new bill they will try to submit to the 2017 legislature?