Opinion

Tom Beck: Tribal water rights deal boosts economy in Montana






Leaders of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the Kerr Dam after it was completed in 1938. Photo from CSKT

Tom Beck of Farmers and Ranchers for Montana calls on Congress to pass S.3013, the Salish and Kootenai Water Rights Settlement Act. The bill would ratify a water compact for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and generate jobs and economic activity for the entire state, Beck argues:
As a result of laws passed by the Montana Legislature, the CSKT were required to seek definition of their federally reserved water rights, either through litigation or through the compact process. Rather than move forward with costly litigation that would span decades and create unnecessary turmoil between neighbors, the CSKT sacrificed many of their claims to water both on and off the Flathead Reservation in order to put in place an agreement that would ensure the needs of water users across our state are met.

The agreement, which was negotiated between the CSKT, the state of Montana, and the federal government, involved stakeholders from across Montana and took decades to negotiate.

The compact, which now awaits ratification by Congress as part of the settlement legislation introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, not only defines and protects the water rights of the tribes, but also of existing water right holders. Without the compact, many of Montana’s water users — farmers, ranchers, irrigators, and even municipalities — would have been subject to the adjudication process.

In addition to the water right certainty the compact provides, its ratification would mean significant investment in our state’s economy.

Get the Story:
Tom Beck: CSKT water compact will create Montana jobs (The Billings Gazette 7/9)

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