Egan Slough Zoning Lawsuit Heads to Summary Judgment

Judge expects to make a decision on the case before the end of March

By Molly Priddy
Egan Slough along the Flathead River. Courtesy Steve Harvey

A lawsuit accusing the Flathead County Commission of abusing its discretion when it made the decision to reject a new zone for the Egan Slough area should get a judicial response by the end of March.

Flathead District Court Judge Robert Allison heard arguments during a summary judgment hearing on Feb. 26, during which both sides of the lawsuit presented their cases.

At the heart of the dispute is the Montana Artesian Water Company, a water-bottling plant proposed by Egan Slough landowner Lew Weaver. Weaver applied for a permit with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation that would allow his company to produce up to 140,000 water bottles per hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The water right would allow Weaver’s company to receive 710 acre feet of water annually, equaling roughly 1.2 billion 20-ounce water bottles.

Neighbors to the proposed bottling facility have publicly raised concerns, and last year asked the Flathead County Commission to expand the Egan Slough Zoning District created in 2002 to preserve the land’s agricultural character. The zoning district prohibits some industrial use and limits new parcels to no less than 80 acres.

When the commission rejected the zoning expansion, the landowners sued the county, arguing that the commission didn’t adequately respond to public comment when considering the district’s expansion.

Allison said he expects to make a decision on the case before the end of March.

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