Montana Public Radio

Montana Supreme Court Affirms Missoula Takeover Of Mountain Water

Aug 3, 2016

Montana’s Supreme Court yesterday handed the city of Missoula a win in the legal battle to take ownership of the city’s drinking water system.

In a 5-2 vote the state’s highest court upheld a Missoula County District Court ruling that said the City of Missoula had the right to use its powers of eminent domain to purchase Mountain Water Company.

In the court’s majority opinion Justice Patricia Cotter wrote the city proved to the lower court that a municipally owned water system is "more necessary" than a privately owned for-profit enterprise.

Liberty Utilities owns the Mountain Water Company. The company has stated its opposition to the city’s attempts and says the city’s ownership won’t result in lower water rates.

Justice Jim Rice, in his dissent, wrote that the company was deprived the constitutional right to due process and he would reverse the decision.

Justice Laurie McKinnon wrote in her dissent that the court errs in applying the “more necessary” requirement of the law.

Neither Mountain Water Company nor the Missoula’s mayor’s office returned calls seeking immediate comment on this story.