(Helena, Mont.)—This morning the Senate Judiciary Committee passed SB 262, the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Water Compact, with strong bipartisan support in a 8-4 vote in favor of the Compact. The bill passage comes after extensive education efforts undertaken by bill sponsor Senator Chas Vincent on the benefits that passing the Compact will have for Montana.
“I appreciate the time my colleagues took to closely review the Compact and decide for themselves that passing the Compact is the right choice for water users across Montana,”
“This isn’t about being Democrat or Republican, this is about passing policies that protect Montanans and the next generations ability to benefit from our most valuable resource—our water.”
The strong support of the Compact by the Senate Judiciary Committee comes on the heels of endorsements from leading agriculture and water use groups across the state urging elected officials to support the bill.
“If the Compact doesn’t pass there would be far reaching consequences for agriculture in Montana, and many of the people in my district”
said Senator Doug Kary (R-Billings).
“The Compact will protect private property values and existing water rights—which is something I think all Montanans can support.”
The protection of property and water rights was far from the only reason cited for supporting the Compact. An attorney and former District Judge, Senator Nels Swandal (R-Wilsall), referenced the protection from litigation that the Compact provides as a reason for his support.
“I know the litigation that failure to pass the Compact would cause and the burden it will place on families across Montana,”
“We don’t need to subject Montana taxpayers and individual farmers and ranchers to millions of dollars of litigation when passing the Compact will prevent it.”
The Compact has been supported by a wide range of Montanans and elected officials from both sides of the aisle, including Democrat Governor Steve Bullock, Republican Attorney General Tim Fox, and numerous legislators from opposing parties.
“Numerous Compacts have been passed that have had a positive impact on our state,”
said Senator Diane Sands (D-Missoula).
“The Compact has brought together the input of all stakeholders involved to make an agreement that will protect water users both on and off the reservation and makes improvements to how we deliver and use our water resources.”
While individual reasons for support of the Compact may vary, there is one uniting aspect that is recognized by all those who support the Compact—the Compact will make Montana stronger, whereas the alternative would cost millions.
“The vote today shows that when the facts are fairly discussed support for the Compact grows ”
said Shelby DeMars, spokesperson for Farmers And Ranchers for Montana (FARM).
“The more the Compact and it’s benefits for Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and water users are brought to light, the more support for the Compact grows. The Compact is supported by leading agriculture, water use, and irrigator groups in the state because it makes Montana stronger.”
The bill will now proceed to the Senate floor and will be voted on by the entire Senate body before being transferred to the House for further consideration.
Farmers And Ranchers for Montana (FARM) is a coalition of hundreds of farmers and ranchers, united with local leaders, tribal governments, businesses, water-users, and other Montanans who support the approval of a Water Compact.