Dear Editor,

The Ruby Valley Conservation District stands together to publicly support the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal (CSKT) Montana Water Compact.

The proposed CSKT Montana Water Compact is the result of more than a decade of negotiations to resolve the reserved water rights of the Tribes within our State. We can speculate and debate about what those reserve rights mean, but the truth is that the courts have already made that decision. They have confirmed the reality that the Treaty of Hellgate grants the CSKT certain rights to claims for water both on and off the reservation, and these rights were established long before Montana was a state.

The purpose of the Compact is to quantify the Tribe's water claims, to create a mechanism to resolve conflicts over future water needs, to protect existing water rights and ensure that irrigators have access to water at levels of historic consumption. Existing water! users are protected in the Compact. The Compact gives everyone security in their existing water rights, and allows the Water Court to conclude much of its work. It is fiscally responsible, and has been well thought out.

It is important for our elected officials to make the right choices for all Montanans, and we believe that the negotiated Compact as it stands is the right choice for water users across the state. To not pass this Compact would not only be a mistake, it would subject generations of Montanans to expensive litigation, ruin the years of work of adjudication, and undermine the very foundation of the lifestyle we hold dear.

The time to pass the Compact has come. The Montana Water Policy Interim Committee has spent two years reviewing, revising and making recommendations so that in this 2015 legislative session action could be taken to move the Compact forward. The Compact has been negotiated to provide all parties the water reso! urces that they need. For these reasons we implore our legislators to take the position of supporting the CSKT Montana Water Compact.

-- Respectfully,

The Ruby Valley Conservation District Board of Supervisors: Gary Giem, Neil Barnosky, Rick Sandru, Jeremy Miller, John Anderson, George Trischman

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