Lawyers with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes plan to file over 2,800 water claims next week while awaiting Congressional approval of the tribal water compact passed by the state earlier this year.
Rob McDonald, CSKT communications director, said the tribes’ legal team will follow through with filing 2,815 claims in Helena on June 25. Upon filing, McDonald said the tribes will request the state stay any action on such claims to allow the approval process to proceed without interruption.
The Flathead Reservation water compact, approved by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Steve Bullock earlier this year, is midway through the lengthy process of being finalized. The agreement is awaiting approval by the U.S. Congress, Montana Water Court and the CSKT Tribal Council.
McDonald said the filing of claims with the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, as required by Montana law and the compact, preserves the tribes’ water rights in the event that the agreement does not receive all necessary approvals. They’ll then file the claims with the Montana Water Court in Bozeman.
“CSKT remains committed to finalizing the compact,” he said in a statement.
The claims will be submitted for water uses including current and historic irrigation, stock water, springs, and instream flows both on and off the reservation.