by Dr. Ed Berry
The year is 2025, ten years after the Montana legislature acted on the CSKT Water Compact. We look in on a Montana high school class as they discuss the 2015 vote on the Water Compact that permanently changed Montana’s future.
No one remembers what other bills the 2015 Montana legislature voted on but everyone remembers exactly how they voted on the Water Compact.
Two plaques display the names of the 2015 Montana legislators. The top plaque lists the legislators they honor as heroes. The bottom plaque lists the legislators they burned in effigy.
The teacher leads the discussion about how Montana Legislators made their decision on the CSKT Water Compact. It was a hot issue in 2015 but it’s history now. The teacher explains,
The political divisions were clear. Democrats, with 41 legislators, supported the Compact. Republicans, with 59 legislators, were split into two groups.
The House Judiciary Committee hearing on April 11, 2015, was contentious. In the end, the committee determined Montana’s future by one vote.
This vote is an example of chaos. Chaos means a small difference in input can cause a distinct shift in outcome. Like when you adjust your bathroom water faucet and find a very small difference in the faucet setting shifts the water flow from smooth to turbulent.
That’s what happened to Montana in 2015. The committee’s final vote determined whether Montana’s future would be smooth or turbulent. It was a permanent decision with permanent effects on Montana.
No wonder Montana’s schools in 2025 have plaques to honor those who voted correctly and dishonor those who voted incorrectly.
They learned in science class that physicists’ predictions in 2015 were correct. By 2025, Earth had cooled and the western drought that began in California in 2012 had expanded. Now, the drought includes Oregon and Washington. Even Idaho and Montana feel the effect of lower precipitation.
The class asks, almost all at once,
“Did the 2015 legislature understand the trees below the surface of Lake Tahoe and Lake McDonald show severe droughts occurred in the past?”
“Did the 2015 legislature consider the effects of a future drought before they voted on the Compact?”
“Did the 2015 legislature understand the Compact would save Montana’s water for Montana by stopping Oregon, Washington, and Idaho from calling Montana’s water?”
The teacher replies the legislators knew this before they voted on the Compact.
In 1991, the State of California was in a drought. California purchased my drought predictions that said California would recover from its 1991 drought but warned that a longer-term drought would begin about 2012.
The Problem Today
WHEN, not if, Idaho, Washington, and Oregon have a drought, they will place calls on Montana’s water. Then Montanans will watch their valuable water flow out of Montana to the Columbia River.
Montana’s long-term economic survival may depend upon whether we have the right to use our water before it leaves Montana.
Montanans who want to fight the CSKT and the feds in court, forget their fight will be in vain when Idaho, Oregon, and Washington call their water when they most need it.
Common sense says we need an insurance policy to help Montana survive future droughts.
Common sense says our best insurance policy is the Compact because only the Compact can stop other states from calling Montana’s water.
Common sense says we need to park our Compact differences, stand together for Montana, and approve the Water Compact for the good of all Montanans.
Under the Compact, the CSKT will share in water deficiencies during droughts. If Montana rejects the Compact, lawsuits can never regain this perk.
What is the value of Montana’s water?
What will be the value of those last precious acre-feet of water we send to the Columbia River?
The answer may make the $55 million for the Compact a better deal than the Louisiana Purchase, which included most of Montana, for $11 million in 1803, especially when the feds dump $2 billion into Montana as a bonus.
Call to Action
Be a hero. Vote YES on the CSKT Water Compact for the good of all Montanans.
This is a real once-in-a-lifetime offer that expires on May 1, 2015.