Earlier this year, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of allottee tribal members living within the Crow Reservation in eastern Montana. Suit was filed against the United States and the Montana Water Court to prevent a final decree on the Crow compact.
The lawsuit alleges that water rights of individual tribal members appurtenant to allotment lands were waived and released by the United States without the knowledge or consent of landowners. It also claims that no effort was made to ensure these individuals would receive enough water to irrigate allotted land, and that the due process rights of these individuals were violated.
Does any of this sound familiar? Every water abstract in the Flathead water compact is held in the name of the United States/Confederates Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and the volume of water is for more water than exists. Nearly every drop of water included is for instream flows for fish, not individual tribal members.
While we have not seen a revised Flathead compact, Chris Tweeten, chairman of the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission and endorsed by the Governor, publicly stated that “not a drop of water would change.” People should be asking who benefits from the Flathead compact? It appears that the only entities benefitting are the United States federal government and the CSKT corporation, not the Montana citizen nor the Tribal landowners.
It is far wiser to address these issues now than it will be to file a lawsuit after the fact such as the Crow Tribal members now attempt.
Get involved and stop this Flathead compact, in the legislature, before the mutual defense clause kicks in requiring Montanans and Tribal landowners to fight against the deep pockets of the United States, Montana State and the CSKT Corporation.
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