Montana Public Radio

Flathead Water Rights Compact

Flathead Compact Public Meetings Scheduled

Jan 6, 2015

Negotiating teams for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the State of Montana, and the United States have completed a revised draft of a proposed water right compact.

However, a copy of the draft is not yet publicly available.

A Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation press release says: "For copies of the public review draft of the Revised Compact and associated documents please check the RWRCC website during the week of January 5, 2015"

The Flathead Joint Board of Control, the body that represents most irrigators on the Flathead Reservation, is sharply divided over the proposed water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

At a meeting Tuesday, a majority of the board decided to draft a resolution urging the state legislature to reject the proposal. Vice Chairman Jerry Laskody says most of the commissioners feel the state and the tribe have ignored the concerns of irrigators.

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.

Pipes gushing water.
Public domain.

Today we continue our coverage of the proposed water compact negotiated by the federal government, the state of Montana, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The compact itself is expected to be over a thousand pages long; it’s still being drafted. The road to this point stretches back over 35 years of negotiations. And it’s clear from the reaction to our coverage that people have strong feelings about it.

Montana Public Radio News wants to hear your thoughts and opinions on the Flathead water compact. Do you support the new compact? Why or why not?

Leave us a comment here or on our Facebook page. Or email our news department with your thoughts at news@mtpr.org

Tribes: New Water Compact Has Better Chance

Dec 15, 2014

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.

The New Flathead Water Compact Explained

Dec 13, 2014

    

One of the issues that you will hear a lot about in the coming months is the proposed water-rights compact between the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. It’s the only water compact involving a Montana reservation that remains un-ratified by the state legislature, after the first version was rejected in 2013.

A new group of farmers, ranchers, and tribal members want to convince Montana lawmakers to pass a water compact, like the one they rejected two years ago.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are the only Montana Native Americans who lack a compact with the state governing water rights. In 2013, the legislature rejected it, after objections from property rights groups. The group supporting the new compact includes Scott Reichner of Bigfork, an outgoing state lawmaker who voted against the last version.

Democrats Hope To Shrink GOP Majorities In Montana Legislature

Oct 20, 2014

From the seat of his combine in the Helena Valley, Republican Senate candidate Joe Dooling talked about why he decided to run for the Legislature.

“I’m just wondering where all the grownups are,” he said.

The 2013 legislative session was marked by a split between conservatives and moderates in the Republican majority, at least one day of banging on tables and more than 70 vetoes from Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat. Dooling said he was frustrated by all of it.

Katrin Frye

While water rights lawsuits bop around state and federal courthouses there is technically no legal method of drilling a well on the Flathead Reservation, and hasn’t been since 1996. However, new wells and water uses have been allowed on the reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes since. Tribal Spokesman Robert McDonald said they didn’t want to halt progress or development, however, he says there isn’t a legally valid way to dig a new well. There’s no governing structure in place so no change of use permits or new well permits.

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