by Susan Lake, Ronan, reprinted from Flathead Beacon
Lost in all the false rhetoric about the CSKT compact is the good and positive it brings to Montana.
First and foremost it protects junior water users from having to object to the very senior claims of the CSKT tribe but beyond that it brings more years than we can guess to water security in Western Montana. It secures 90,000 acre feet of water in Hungry Horse for use solely in Montana. That means down river states cannot take that away from us. This is water that has never been available to Montana.
It creates co-ownership of water rights with Fish Wild Life and Parks. There is no co regulatory authority. The co-owned instream flow rights will continue to be managed by FWP. There is no federal control and no additional water in these rights.
There is no change in regulatory authority off the reservation. There is no additional control by the federal government. The DNRC continues to manage off reservation water issues.
On reservation the state still has input on new uses on the reservation. This occurs on no other reservation in the state as the other tribes have sole authority for new uses on their reservations.
As has been done in other state-tribal compacts money is put into securing water for irrigators on the reservation by spending money on improving irrigation infrastructure. It also guarantees the low block of power for irrigators to help keep down the cost of irrigation to the tune of about $300,000. This is not a cost to tax payers. Protections are put in place to guarantee irrigators receive historic amounts of irrigation water. Drought water sharing practices are put in place. Protections are given to irrigators that would otherwise lose water to endangered bull trout.
The CSKT compact brings water security to Montana.