Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Brief update on CSKT Proposed Water Compact

Since the early 1980s, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes negotiated with the State of Montana and the United States to quantify the Tribes’ water rights claims. A proposed agreement was finally made available late 2012.

The state entity empowered by the Montana Legislature to negotiate such compacts, the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, had completed 16 previous compacts with all Federal reserved rights located within the state, which includes the Indian reservations in Montana. The last remaining compact was with CSKT

The Compact Commission voted to submit the completed Proposed Compact to the Legislature, but the compact died in committee due in part to an organized opposition. A bill to study and extend the negotiation timeframe did pass, and Governor Steve Bullock vetoed that bill. The Governor also issued an order to the Compact Commission to answer questions and address concerns with the compact and issue a report to the Water Policy Interim Committee, or WPIC, an interim legislative entity. The Commission plans to deliver that report in early September 2013.

Tribal Council directed the legal team to prepare to file all water claims by June 30, 2015. However, there is still a possibility the Proposed Compact could be re-submitted to the 2015 Legislature and, with growing support, pass through. If that happens, the compact would still need approval by Congress and the CSKT Council.

Alternative compacts and provisions offered by individuals and groups are now popping up, but these are not being offered by any of the legitimate negotiating parties.

The CSKT water rights negotiation team has been part of various efforts to educate groups about what is actually in the compact, as opposed to the untruthful and fear-based claims directed at the Tribes. The Tribal Council is continually monitoring information regarding the compact and plans to continue to do so.

Given the lack of any negotiated settlement approved by the negotiating parties, CSKT’s extensive water rights will be ready to file with the Montana Water Court by the June 30, 2015 deadline.

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