Verdell Jackson’s letter submitted to the Beacon was a misrepresentation of state water law, the terms in Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes water compact and water management of true irrigated farm operations. With each summer, farmers hope the rain is plentiful, but if that is not the case, we buckle down and make the best of a less than ideal situation. This has been the norm for hundreds of years – and this year is no different. With the increase in stress and tension that comes along with drought, also comes a desire to place blame. Verdell Jackson’s letter seeks to do just that –place blame.
He attempts to argue that the legislatively approved and widely supported CSKT water compact will negatively impact how irrigators deal with drought conditions, when in fact this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The CSKT water compact is an agreement that defines the water rights of the CSKT and provides water certainty for all Flathead citizens. The compact utilizes what are called “shared shortage” provisions where necessary. These provisions ensure that every resource available is tapped to meet the needs of western Montana water users in times of drought. Through these provisions, more Montanans will be able to continue irrigating their crops and avoid operating at a loss due to drought. The fact is, without the shared shortage provisions in the compact, water users in Flathead and Lake counties may have faced restricted use of their water during periods of drought. Thankfully, with the passage of the compact, measures were put in place to help lessen the harsh impact of drought on all Montana water users in the future.
The compact will make more water available for irrigation, while protecting instream flows both on and off the CSKT reservation. The compact has seen overwhelming support from farmers, ranchers, and irrigators across Montana, and successfully passed the Montana State Legislature. Congress must ratify it prior to implementation, however, thanks to the hard work of our elected officials – such as Governor Steve Bullock, Attorney General Tim Fox, Sen. Chas Vincent, Rep. Dan Salomon, and Rep. Greg Hertz – the compact is one step closer to providing Montanans with the water right certainty that they need and deserve. While the compact can’t end a drought or increase the amount of rainfall we have, it can provide reasonable ways for us to manage our water resources in times of shortage, which contrary to the outrageous and false claims of Mr. Jackson, is precisely what it will do.
Flathead County commissioner