The Montana Water Rights Protection Act passed the US House of Representatives and US Senate and is headed to President Trump's desk for signature. Its passage is long in coming, with 30 years of negotiation as it passed through the Montana State Legislature and cleared hurdles to pass through Congress
“This is a once-in-a lifetime moment for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes," said CSKT Chairwoman Shelly Fyant. “As you may have heard, something big took place yesterday. The Montana Water Rights Protection Act is heading for the president’s desk for signature.
“My phone has been lit up with calls to offer congratulations from everyone involved. There are a lot of people to thank for their efforts.
“This is one of the most significant days in the history of our people and one that will have a profound and positive impact on the future of the Flathead Reservation for the next century. With passage of S. 3019, we will be able to rehabilitate and modernize the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project and restore damages to fish and wildlife habitat caused by the project, while also protecting farmers and ranchers who depend on irrigation for their livelihoods. This will also be a tremendous boost to the economy.
“We greatly appreciate the Montana Congressional Delegation. From Senator Tester’s initial introduction of the bill four years ago, to Senator Daines’ introduction, amendments and work with the Trump Administration this year and to both of our Senators urging their respective leaders to include the bill in the omnibus appropriations bill, and to Congressman Gianforte’s work with the Minority Leader in the House, all played pivotal roles and the residents of Montana should be thankful for their efforts. Governor Steve Bullock must also be thanked, along with Tim Fox and many many more.
“This will conclude a very long effort to quantify the water rights of the Séliš, QÍispé, and Ksanka People. We chose the path of negotiation and now we can avoid decades of acrimonious litigation on streams across much of Montana and protect many streams with sufficient amounts of water to ensure fish can survive. The bill will also restore the National Bison Range back to Tribal ownership where it will be professionally managed for bison conservation and will remain open to the public. The implementation of the settlement will create thousands of good paying jobs and help boost our regional economy.
We plan to celebrate and thank everyone who made this possible. It will take some time to thank all who were involved. Then we will get to the hard work before us and show you what we can do. Thank you, everyone.”
As of this publication, the Act has yet to be signed by President Trump.