A district judge has rescinded a water right for a water bottling plant near Kalispell.
Montana Artesian Water Company was granted a permit early last year to draw 710 acre feet of water per year by the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Several groups appealed the permit, and on Tuesday Judge Kathy Seeley ruled in their favor.
Steve Moore is with Water for Flathead's Future, one of the groups that petitioned the permit. Moore Friday literally spelled out his reaction to Seeley’s ruling.
"Four letters, one piece of punctuation: H-U-G-E! This is absolutely huge."
Moore says Seeley’s ruling bolsters the public’s right to maintain more control over their water.
"It sets up guardrails a little bit about the water resources of the Flathead Valley which we all rely on, obviously, for our recreation, for our agricultural products, for our domestic water uses. It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that an applicant, when they present it to the DNRC in the Flathead Valley will get their water permit granted."
Darryl James, an Artesian Water consultant, could not be reached for comment about the ruling Friday.
The company began operating and distributing on a small scale this summer despite questions over new zoning laws that sought to ban industrial activity in the area.
Steve Moore of Water for Flathead’s Future says he would not be surprised if Artesian Water appeals Judge Seeley’s ruling. If that happens, he’s confident Tuesday's ruling will be upheld.
"Now it’s no longer we have to prove the DNRC failed in their administrative policies or procedures," Moore says. "Now the company has to prove that the judge does not deserve deference, that the judge has somehow made an erroneous ruling. So it really shifts everything from us having having to fight an offensive battle. We merely have to stand on the correct side of the law where we always felt like we’ve stood."