Protecting Our Clean Water

Our elected officials should listen to the voters

By Ben Long

Politicians should listen to the voters and preserve Flathead’s water sources

Elected officials in Flathead County and Helena had an opportunity to address the concerns raised by rural Flathead County residents about the prospect of a water-bottling plant near Creston. Instead, those officials ignored, derided and even scoffed at those voices.

Those concerned citizens – and the county voters – took matters into their own hands and showed those politicians what democracy looks like. The zoning triggered by threat of a water bottling plant won in a landslide. Those politicians, who out of apathy or cowardice did nothing, woke up with a carton of egg on their face.

Think about it. When companies come to pull oil from the ground they go through regulations and pay royalties to mitigate public impacts. Why should out-of-state companies who come for our water be given a green light when there are legitimate local concerns? If you think water is somehow less valuable than petroleum, go spend a day in the sun with nothing but a quart of motor oil to drink.

Flathead Valley voters know – even if politicians forget – that Flathead Valley is blessed with abundant, clean water and we share a responsibility to use it wisely and keep it clean. That resource is precious and getting scarcer throughout the American West. Big corporations will continue to come for that water whether they send it out in a pipeline or on trucks.

At the very least, Flathead Basin and the state of Montana need to address this issue with a credible, system-wide plan for developing our water resources that protects the rights of all parties and safeguards our lakes and rivers. Our water should not be put at risk of plastic residue pollution and our aquifers, lakes and rivers should not be blithely handed over to the whims of Nestle, Coca Cola or whoever else grabs it first. Future generations may need that water far more than we do today.

Our elected officials should listen to the voters. Who knows? If they manage to do something right, maybe those voters will even reward them for it.

Ben Long

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