One of the most positive aspects of the proposed water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is the Unitary Management Board. It creates a local entity for the processing of new uses of water on the reservation. This is a huge improvement over a process dealing with two governments competing for water that would occur with no compact. It also provides equality, as all residents on the reservation would follow the same rules for developing new water uses. It has no off reservation authority.
The board consists of both state representatives appointed in consultation with irrigators and tribal appointees and is governed by rules that mirror the state water use act that governs the DNRC.
If the opponents of the compact win there will be no peaceful solution. This place we live in will be in an adversarial state for decades. The tribe has senior water rights on the reservation and will file for time immemorial in stream flows in the western half of the state. In the compact the rights of the junior water rights holders are protected. Going through the state adjudication process with no compact there are no certain outcomes.
If you don’t get involved we are in for decades of litigation both off and on the reservation. Our land values will suffer with the cloud of uncertainty over our heads and agriculture, which is the largest industry in Lake County, will most certainly have less water.
It is time for all of us to become engaged. To this point the only people involved are rightwing, anti-government, anti-compact groups and irrigators. This issue belongs to everyone in the western half of the state. Please get informed and then get involved. We all have a stake in the outcome.
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