|August 15, 2013
Flathead Joint Board of Control issues statement
To the Irrigators of the Flathead Irrigation Project:
Since early May 2013, in response to the concerns of the Flathead Irrigation Project irrigators, the Flathead Joint Board of Control (FJBC) has been working on a list of concerns regarding the proposed CSKT Water Compact and in particular the Water Use Agreement (WUA), which concerns the supply of Project water for irrigation and instream flows. Recapping the plan we provided during our May meeting, we said we believed that further discussions to clarify some issues were a preferred method of making changes to the Water Use Agreement and that we would form a Negotiation/Litigation Committee to review it and list our concerns. Further we would provide our concerns to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the Department of the Interior (DOI). We asked for your patience as we began that process, which we hoped to finish in 90 days starting from June 1, 2013.
The Negotiation/Litigation committee is composed of Boone Cole, Jocko District Commissioner and FJBC Chairman, Wayne Blevins, Flathead District Chairman and Vice Chairman of the FJBC, Ted Hein, At Large FJBC Member from Camas, and Jerry Laskody, Mission District Commissioner, and consultants, Bill Slack and Jon Metropoulos.
Despite the active even desperate opposition of some FJBC Commissioners, who are in the minority, and other former consultants and members of the JBC, the Litigation/Negotiation Committee has made a great deal of progress in defining the stumbling blocks to what the Committee believes will be an acceptable Water Use Agreement for Project Irrigators. We have identified 3-4 major concerns with the WUA that warrant clarification to be acceptable to the majority of Project irrigators. The committee believes the process is nearly complete with some details remaining to finalize our list. When we have completed the list, we will provide this information to you for your review and comments at public meetings, held in accordance with state law and your constitutional rights. The committee does not have solutions to all these issues but remember, that was not the purpose of the list. The purpose was to identify those concerns that appear to be stumbling blocks to an acceptable agreement to be able to discuss them with our negotiating partners. Further discussion will result in helpful clarifications or litigation will bring the solutions.
As many of you are aware, the Negotiation/Litigation Committee has had to deal with the distraction of certain minority Board members actively working against the interests of the Project irrigators and the Committee. In fact, they voted against the process of review outlined above, and they held public meetings in violation of the law and your constitutional rights to try to impose their view on all irrigators. This has resulted in a complaint being filed in District Court about these illegal district meetings held in violation of the publicís right to know what its government is doing and to participate in it. During the first of these, approval to hire a law firm, which they refused to name, was granted on a 2-1 vote of the district's commissioners. During the second, the decision to withdraw the Jocko and Mission Districts from the FJBC, which had never been discussed previously, passed by the same 2-1 vote. The meetings were not noticed in a timely fashion and the agendas posted in the notices were different from the actual agendas, both violations of the state public meeting laws. You should also know that the law firm hired by these Districts is also the firm that represented the CSKT on the same issue just months ago, so this is clearly a conflict of interest. Private conversations were recorded without peopleís knowledge; the recordings were illegally removed from the FJBC computer during an illegal entry to the FJBC's office and disseminated to the public. These despicable acts required us to take legal action against the perpetrators, our own fellow board members. At a special meeting on August 5, the Board made the difficult decision to go forward with a complaint in District Court against four of our fellow Commissioners. The majority of the Commissioners felt that this was the only way to stop them from actively working against the process of developing an FJBC Board position regarding the proposed Water Use Agreement.
The majority of the FJBC has no argument with those members of the Board who chose to disagree with the Board's majority position on any matter. We welcome any "loyal opposition" (i.e. discussion and debate) to the Board's taking positions on matters the Board is considering. It is part of the democratic process. However, active, underhanded working against the process of establishing the Board's positions on critical issues like the Water Use Agreement, the illegal recording of private conversations, the illegal procurement of those recordings by entering the FJBC office after hours, illegally accessing the password protected computer, and the public dissemination of the illegally recorded conversations, if not criminal, is at the very least, morally reprehensible. Most importantly, holding illegal meetings in violation of your rights to know what they are doing and to participate in their decision-making is not only wrong but violates your fundamental constitutional rights. The perpetrators of these acts need to be held accountable for such despicable behavior!
In closing, we, the majority of the FJBC, appreciates the patience of the Project irrigators. We are striving to be your voice regarding concerns with the Water Use Agreement and to reach a reasonable compromise. Please be assured that we are doing our best to protect your interests. Remember that we are irrigators also, so by protecting your interests, we are also protecting ours. We are all in this together. The strong attendance at our public meetings, especially during this busy irrigation season, is appreciated by Board members and your comments and opinions, both at meetings and in our private conversations with you will help keep us on the right track.