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Montana News

Judge Strikes Down Part Of Flathead Water Compact

Judge James Manley today ruled the portion of the water compact unconstitutional that protects members of a yet-to-be-created water compact board from being sued.
Flickr user Brad Smith (CC-BY-NC-2.0)
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Judge James Manley today ruled the portion of the water compact unconstitutional that protects members of a yet-to-be-created water compact board from being sued.

A district court judge is declaring wins for both the Flathead Valley irrigators who sued to overturn the water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the state of Montana that’s defending the compact after it passed the state legislature last year.

Judge James Manley today ruled the portion of the water compact unconstitutional that protects members of a yet-to-be-created water compact board from being sued.

Manley wrote in his decision that Montana’s constitution requires laws creating new government bodies like the compact board to pass by a two-thirds legislative majority.

The CSKT water rights compact passed narrowly last year, and did not receive two-thirds support from lawmakers.

But today’s court ruling did not void the entire compact.

Judge Manley partially sided with the Tribes and the state, writing in his order that the part of the compact that was ruled unconstitutional quote, "does not appear to be central or pivotal in the overall compact."

The judge also wrote that the controversy of the compact is broader than the scope of the lawsuit, and the court is unlikely to resolve the larger controversies.

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