©2018 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
Since the questionable ratification of the CSKT compact in the 2015 Montana legislature, we’ve posted quite a few articles about the United States and CSKT filing of 10,000 claims covering 2/3 of the state of Montana.
Montana’s “Negotiations” Failed its Citizens
When negotiators sit at the table, they typically know exactly what it is they are negotiating over. But no such luck in Montana. Proud of its “compacting process”, the compact commission accepted the tribe’s 2001 and 2010 proposals as adequate and spent decades “negotiating” without ever realizing just how big the overreach of the United States and the CSKT was. For decades, the main thrust of the tribes’ proposals insisted on:
- All of the water flowing through, over and under the reservation
- Off reservation claims (with no specified geographical limitation)
- Tribal management and administration of all of that water
Because the compact commission failed to ask for the claims before sitting down at the table, little did the state or the public realize how geographically expansive and overreaching those claims would ultimately be.
This was a huge miscalculation on the part of the compact commission, because at the end of the day:
- The failed process allowed the threat of 10,000 unfounded claims to be wielded as a means of coercing Montanans into accepting a very bad compact, and Montana legislators into “ratifying” the Compact in 2015.
- These claims continue to be a looming threat, ready to be used to wreak havoc on the state adjudication process because they represent the threat of re-opening basins east of the divide whose water rights were close to being resolved
- This threat to the adjudication process is also subtly being used to” influence the water court” into issuing stays on any examination of the United States / CSKT 10,000 claims as well as those in the proposed CSKT compact.
We now know that part of the strategy was to ensure that there will never be an examination of the 10,000 claims. The same holds true for the claims in the CSKT Water Compact. The plan was that once ratification by all three parties was complete, the compact’s unscrutinized claims would then be incorporated into the decrees for the basin, and people would never know what hit them.
Adding insult to injury, upon ratification of the CSKT Compact by all three parties, these 10,000 unscrutinized and legally indefensible claims will be dismissed without prejudice allowing them to hang over the state as a looming threat of future litigation.
As we recently pointed out, this is far different than the process Idaho is going through related to claims of the Coeur d’Alene tribes: A Tale of Two States: Montana and Idaho
Phase Two of the Strategy: Mercury and FARM
In 2014 we documented tribal money going toward advancing the CSKT compact via republican legislators:
Bruce Tutvedt: CSKT Lobbyist or Legislator?
In 2016, we were able to use public records to document the genesis of Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM) via CSKT dark money paid to Mercury LLC:
FARM, Grassroots, Astroturf or Something Else?
The Anatomy of the CSKT Water Compact was later developed to connect all of this information together by showing the faces of the CSKT water compact, lovingly referred to by FARM as “Montana’s Compact”:
Anatomy of the CSKT Water Compact
In early August of 2018, the CSKT Tribal Council approved another contract with Mercury LLC from March 1, 2017 through September 30, 2019 (is this an error in the minutes or was the contract approved after the fact?)
Here is contract information taken from their August 7, 2018 tribal council minutes.
The first order of business after council approval on the contract was the letter sent by FARM throughout the state that hit mailboxes sometime in the 2nd week of August. The letter, designed to look like a legal notice from the Montana Water Court Adjudication included the boldest threat to Montanans that we’ve seen thus far:
Public records indicate you may have a financial, property or other interest that could be negatively impacted without final approval of the Compact. WITHOUT THE COMPACT YOU MAY LOSE THE ABILITY TO IRRIGATE FOR DECADES WHILE THE WATER COURT ADJUDICATES CSKT’S CLAIMS.
For more information about this letter, including a copy of its entire content, click on this link: FARM Notice Signals Tribal Desperation
Make no mistake, the timing of this recent CSKT contract with Mercury is intended to maximize the tribe’s influence toward helping Jon Tester’s re-election aspirations, and to make the CSKT compact an issue most likely for the lame duck session immediately after the election, and into next year.
Should Tester retain his senate seat, expect them to push harder than ever before for ratification of Tester’s S.3013 2.0 and the horrible CSKT water compact that was inserted into it.
Brace yourselves, the recent FARM letter sets the stage for what lies ahead of us for the next year.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Montanans should expect even more aggressive and ridiculous threats paid for courtesy of the CSKT through their “public relations” strategy planned and executed perfectly by Mercury Public Affairs LLC. The only thing we don’t know for sure is whether FARM will continue to be their preferred messenger, or if a “new” grassroots organization will be invented.
The 10,000 claims have sure been handy, brilliant if you will. They can and will be forever used to beat Montanans, particularly the courts into submission.
The once warm and fuzzy “Montana’s Water Compact” has now morphed into the threat of decades of deprivation of irrigation water.
Remind us again about why this compact is so good for Montana? If it’s so good, why must they resort to coercion and threats to get it ratified?