We Have Much to Lose if Compact Passes

This will be detrimental to our property values, economy, property rights and way of life

By Pam Holmquist

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Rights Compact has been sent to the 2015 Legislature. Now it will be up to our representatives to defend our most precious commodity, our water.

This will be the most significant and far-reaching decision this Legislature has ever made, setting precedence not only in Montana, but every state in the union. The question is will our representatives represent our best interest as citizens of Montana or will they buy into the scare tactics of litigation.

It will be a tough decision, as it seems that our governor and attorney general have already decided that Montana should relinquish water rights to the federal government to hold in trust for the tribe.

My hope is that the proposed compact can be revised to identify CSKT reserved water rights on the reservation while protecting the water rights of citizens off the reservation.

I have attended several meetings and received volumes of information on the CSKT compact as well as various opinions from attorneys and hydrologists on both sides of the issue. The one thing that the attorneys seem to agree on is that off-reservation water rights have never been granted before, nor have they ever been adjudicated in a court of law.

While no one looks forward to litigation, I don’t believe that a “right to take fish” equates to “water right.” It’s been portrayed that off-reservation water rights are not a new type of water right, yet it certainly seems that way. I would encourage individuals to look at the CSKT compact appendices on the DNRC website. The compact itself gives some overview, but the appendices give a more in-depth look at the effects of the compact.

Flathead County, as well as other counties, and the state of Montana have much to lose if this compact is passed by the Legislature. This will be detrimental to our property values, economy, property rights and way of life. Please contact your representatives and urge them to vote “NO” on the CSKT compact.

Pam Holmquist
Flathead County commissioner

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