The decision that our legislators make on the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe (CSKT) Water Compact could shape the future of our state for decades to come. While many would have you believe that the Compact only impacts the Flathead and areas west of the Continental Divide, this couldn’t be further from the truth. If the Compact fails there will be far reaching consequences that will be felt by all Montanans, chief of which is the massive cost of litigation not passing the Compact would cost water users.
The Compact is a negotiated agreement that defines the federally reserved water rights of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, without which the tribe is required by state law to file claims in court to define its water rights. It would file these claims within its former aboriginal territories —which means that it could file claims as far east as the Upper Yellowstone River and beyond.
The litigation of these claims would cost individual farmers and ranchers across the state thousands of dollars to defend their water rights and subject many who have already adjudicated their rights to re-adjudication.
The compact prevents the uncertainty and costs associated with litigation and would protect existing water rights and ensure that irrigators receive water at the level of their historic consumptive use.
Our water is our most valuable resource.
Passing the Compact prevents unnecessary litigation and ensures that our agricultural community has access to the water resources they need.
-- Arleen Rice, Havre