After extensively reviewing the proposed Confederated Salish and Kootenai water compact agreement and its related appendices, I have come to the conclusion that it is time for the legislature to approve the water compact negotiated by the state of Montana and the Tribes.
There are certain realities that the compact requires us to recognize. These realities have been difficult for some to accept, but they are realities nonetheless. The first is that the Treaty of Hellgate grants the CSKT certain rights, including the right to claims for water on and off the Flathead Indian Reservation. Secondly, these rights were established well before Montana gained statehood.
The purpose of the compact is to quantify the Tribes’ 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.
Some say they object to the compact because it violates property rights principles. Fact is, the CSKT have property rights, too. If you support property rights, then you are obligated to defend all property rights, including the Tribes’.
Additionally, there is nothing in the compact that will violate the property rights of the people of Montana. If anything, the compact upholds property rights by preventing any decrease in property value associated with uncertain water rights. [Read more…]