The Water Compact
Two For Thought
By Tim Baldwin
The contentious Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact is no simple matter. The parties involved are the U.S. government, Montana and independent tribal nations, in addition to factors like existing compacts, as well as state and federal laws – not to mention tribal history that predates the U.S. and Montana.
Notable advocates for and against the compact are Sen. Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) and Rep. Dan Salomon (R-Ronan) – Jackson against, and Salomon for the compact. Jackson makes three main arguments against the compact:
Salomon disputes that Jackson’s contentions are true, however, and offers explanations supporting the compact.
Salomon also notes that without this compact, the Tribes will file a claim of ownership of the water where the Water Court will determine the rights.
Salomon suggests that this could result in a worse situation for Montana given the Tribes’ claims of “senior” rights.
You can read HB 629, the 132-page bill, to learn if Jackson’s opposition or Salomon’s support for the compact, is correct. Go to http://leg.mt.gov/bills/2013/billpdf/HB0629.pdf
By Joe Carbonari
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water rights compact has been in the works since at least the 1979 Montana legislative session when the governor was authorized to begin work on it.
Thirty-three years later who has rights to how much is still in question.
The issues involved are complex and, for many, emotionally tinged. Very few people have the time, the skills, and the interest necessary for a full, detailed, personal understanding of it all. Most of us are left to rely on the experts charged with developing, vetting and presenting the plan – one that takes into account the varying interests of all involved.
Fortunately, two of our local senators, Bruce Tutvedt and Verdell Jackson, are looking out for our interests. Tutvedt favors the compact as proposed; Jackson feels that more study and discussion is required.
If I have it right, Jackson seems to feel that the tribes have no legal say on water rights outside their reservation, and that within it the rights of non-tribal members are insufficiently protected.
Further, he seems to feel that the allocation of rights, their determination, and their management are in violation of both the U.S. and Montana constitutions.
Tutvedt maintains that these issues have all been aired and Jackson’s positions are unsupported.
The experts involved in the process feel similarly. I side with the experts.