It’s still just over a year before the Montana Legislature next convenes, but the Missoulian reports that means the clock is ticking on a proposed water rights compact between the state
and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
With all the legal and legislative maneuverings, countless letters to the editor, battles amongst irrigators and arguments over whether the name of an irrigation project contains the word “Indian,” it can be easy to lose sight of what’s looming in the controversy surrounding reserved water rights on the Flathead Reservation and beyond:
A newly released report from the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, requested by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, seeks to answer concerns from compact opponents and give legislators more information in advance of the coming session.
Opponents of the compact as written, including state Sen. Verdell Jackson, R-Kalispell, say the 37-page report provides more details than have previously been available, but he still believes the document is flawed.
Proponents say it was hammered out in public meetings over the course of more than a decade, and the time has come to either move forward on an agreement where both sides compromised, or leave the question of water rights up to the courts.
“The Legislature will do what it’s going to do,” commission chairman Chris Tweeten told the Missoulian. “Either it will be approved, or the tribes will file their claims. We’re reaching the point where it can’t be delayed any further.”
- Vince Devlin