Scores Turn Out for Flathead Water Rights Hearing

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Lawmakers asked to ratify the Flathead tribal water rights compact held a two-hour hearing that brought scores of supporters and opponents to debate how one of the state’s most precious resources should be allocated.

House Bill 629 would ratify the compact 10 years in the making that quantifies the water rights of the Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Supporters say it will help the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project on the Flathead reservation, boost economic development and avoid litigation.

But if it’s not ratified by the Legislature, tribal officials say they’ll likely take their claims to court.

Irrigators and landowners from western Montana told the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday to reject the compact.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports they are worried the deal will hurt their own water rights and usage.

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