©2019 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana, Montana Land and Water Alliance

Last year, in August 2018, a team of legislators, citizens from the Montana Land and Water Alliance, the Jocko Irrigation District, and Concerned Citizens of Western Montana met privately with Senator Steve Daines to discuss the People’s Compact with him as a viable solution to, resolve, in his words “the most divisive piece of legislation to ever come out of the State of Montana”.  The Senator gave us “assignments” to complete that would provide him enough information to push back against an unacceptable CSKT Compact.

A little over a year later, in September 2019, we developed that material and requested a meeting with the Senator to present it. But the Senator refused to meet with the People who drafted the People’s Compact and with those who will be most impacted by it, preferring to meet instead with legislators. Constituents apparently don’t get to meet with their Senator.

In a remarkable turn of events after his professed promise to “never submit the CSKT Compact to Congress as long as I am Senator”, the Senator instead announced his intention to submit a “CSKT Compact” to the Senate this year. While no one really knows what is in the new proposed “Daines Compact”, and the people have been given few details, what we do know is that the Tribes have given up nothing:

  • The unlawful Unitary Management Ordinance (UMO) remains a major part of the Daines Compact, which places 30,000 people and state law based water rights under the jurisdiction of the Tribal government.  The UMO means that future economic and water development in the Flathead Basin will be determined by the Tribe;
  • The off-reservation federal, not tribal, “co-ownership” of water in the Bitterroot River remains, as well as the off-reservation water rights–known as the 10,000 claims–across 2/3 of the state of Montana.
  • Flathead Lake, Hungry Horse Reservoir. While we heard that the Tribes had “given up their claims to the North and South Fork of the Flathead River” there are conflicting stories of whether the Tribes also gave up their claims to Flathead Lake and Hungry Horse Reservoir, partially and completely off the reservation respectively.  If the Tribes did not give up Flathead Lake and Hungry Horse Reservoir, then the offer to give up the North and South Fork of the Flathead River is meaningless. As the Flathead Lake analysis shows, the Tribes claimed all 19 million acre feet of Flathead Lake, not just the top ten feet.  Moreover, as long as the Tribes keep the Unitary Management Ordinance, then development decisions for both Flathead Lake and Hungry Horse Reservoir–which affect the economic future of Flathead County–will be controlled by the Tribe.

The Senator and his staff reported to legislators that they “used the People’s Compact” to come up with the “Daines Compact”.  Nothing could be further from the truth—they are using this as a ploy to placate “we the people“.

The Senator has also unfortunately bought into and is promoting the IRRATIONAL claim that if the Tribes go through the Montana stream adjudication, that the water use of 2/3 of the state will be curtailed until their rights are resolved. Think about this. Montana’s General Stream adjudication has been going on since 1979.  Has anyone had to curtail their water use while the adjudication is on-going? Has this ever happened in any other state? The answer is NO.  It is the Tribes who are afraid of the General Stream Adjudication because they know these water rights will be thrown out of court.

The video below, prepared for and shown to Senator Daines at one of the legislators meetings this weekend, clearly demonstrates that the Tribes have no off reservation water rights.  That the Senator is promoting this fear tactic, instead of demanding the Tribes eliminate all their off-reservation claims, is itself irrational.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/360310471″>2019 08 28 Daines Presentation RS Voice</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user43144669″>Montana Land and Water Alliance</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

In addition to the video presentation, citizens prepared a notebook of materials that Senator Daines could use to really find a solution to the CSKT Compact.  Called the “Flathead Water Solutions Decision Makers Handbook”, the handbook was hand-delivered to the Senator and his staff at one of the meetings.  The documented evidence collected over the past eight years demonstrates that the CSKT Compact cannot be “tweaked”.  An excerpt from this handbook is provided in the table below, the Table of Contents is linked hereUpdate: The entire handbook may be found at the People’s Compact blog.

Despite the Senator’s refusal to meet with his constituents, the material in the video and Handbook ensures that the Senator cannot claim he didn’t know about the problems with the CSKT Compact, as he crafts his own “version”, now known forever as the “Daines Compact”.