Panel Tables Ratification of Water-Rights Compact

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — A Republican-led committee has voted to table a bill to ratify a water-rights agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

The House Judiciary Committee vote Wednesday effectively kills House Bill 629 unless lawmakers vote to bypass the committee.

The compact quantifies and clarifies the water rights of the Salish and Kootenai tribes. It is the product of 10 years of negotiations and must be ratified by the state, the tribes and the U.S. Congress.

Tribe spokesman Rob McDonald tells Lee Newspapers of Montana the tribes will explore their legal options.

Also on Wednesday, the Montana Supreme Court vacated an order from District Judge C.B. McNeill in favor of opponents who had sued to block the compact.

The court says it will issue an opinion later that explains the decision.

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