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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Tribes: New Water Compact Has Better Chance

An attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes says the latest compact governing tribal water rights has a better chance of passing the state legislature, than one that was rejected two years ago. 

Rhonda Swaney, says the biggest single improvement in the latest version of the tribe’s water compact with the state and federal governments is in its timing. The previous version was just introduced too late in the legislative session for lawmakers to deal with, she says.

"Folks in their districts or other folks they heard from said it’s too long, it’s too complicated, it’s not fair, constitutional rights are being offended. They just voted no without having time to check to see if that was really true."

Swaney says negotiators have spent two years trying to write a compact that deals with every reasonable objection. The tribes of the Flathead reservation are the only ones in Montana without a compact that spells out their water rights.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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