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The latest Montana politics, elections and Legislature news.

Off-Reservation Water Rights Complicate Flathead Water Compact

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As a proposed water compact involving the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes moves closer to consideration in the Montana Legislature, we’re talking to people on all sides of the proposal.

Today we’ll hear from Mark Blasdel of Kalispell, who is leaving his post as Speaker of the House to take a seat in the state Senate. Blasdel opposed the compact that died in the last legislature, and he says he’ll oppose the latest version as well.

What sets this compact apart from others in Montana is the unique right that it gives the Tribes of the Flathead Reservation. Based on the 1855 Hellgate Treaty the tribe holds the rights to water in some streams located outside the reservation where the tribes have traditionally fished. Blasdel says that claim to off-reservation water rights is his chief concern.

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The Flathead Reservation and Mission Valley.

Kalispell lawmaker Mark Blasdel urges his fellow legislators, and people in general, to study the proposed water compact thoroughly. However, the text of the proposed compact has not yet been made public.

Previously in this series we’ve heard from several supporters of the compact, starting with an irrigator and former lawmaker who opposed the earlier version but supports the new one, as well as attorneys for the state and the tribe who took part in the latest round of negotiations on it.  

In future reports we plan to hear from more opponents, and analyze some of the arguments for and against the latest proposal.

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