Nov 27, 2012 10:15 AM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
HELENA - Although public hearings are just now getting underway, and further revisions might be coming, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is already earmarking money for implementing a new water rights agreement with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes.
The hearings started Monday on the draft agreement between the tribes, state and federal agencies. The plan aims to secure a long-range plan for managing water use in the Flathead Basin.
Because it's based on the 1855 Hellgate Treaty, the settlement would also extend to the entire Clark Fork watershed, covering nearly all of Western Montana.
The parties will still need to analyze public comments from the meetings, and decide whether to submit the plan to the Legislature this coming year.
However, Governor Schweitzer is already planning to set aside dollars in the next budget to pay for the state's obligations in the settlement.
The plan calls for the state to sell $72-million in general obligation bonds, with most of that money, $55-million, going to pay for the CSKT agreement. The balance would resolve the state's outstanding costs for water compact agreements with the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap tribes.
"It's been decades that the State of Montana has been trying to put together a water compact with the folks in Indian Country. And we've negotiated a settlement. This is a good settlement. It's a requirement that the State of Montana get this done and so we are putting money aside," Schweitzer explained.
The money is included as a supplemental budget bill, meaning the Legislature would have to give separate approval to the funding package.
The negotiating teams for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the State of Montana, and the United States have completed a proposed Water Rights Compact and released it for public review and comment.
The water rights settlement will quantify the water rights of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes on and off the Flathead Indian Reservation and provide for the administration of water rights on the Reservation.
Click here for more information, including copies of the proposed Compact and Ordinance. You can also click here. Send email or contact Rob McDonald, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (406) 675.2700 ext. 1222 or Bill Schultz (406) 542.5880, or Jay Weiner, (406) 444.6844, Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission
Submit written comments on the proposed Compact or Ordinance to Mr. Chris Tweeten, Chair, MT RWRCC, 2705 Spurgin Road, Building C, Missoula, MT 59804 or email
Public Meeting Schedule
LIBBY- Monday November 26, 2012 Time: 7:00 pm. Location: City of Libby - Ponderosa Meeting Room, 952 East Spruce Street, Libby, MT
BIGFORK - Tuesday November 27, 2012 Time: 1:00 pm. Location: Bethany Lutheran Church Fellowship Hall (Basement), 8559 MT HWY 35, Bigfork, MT
KALISPELL - Tuesday November 27, 2012 Time: 7:00 pm. Location: Outlaw Inn Hotel Winchester Room, 1701 US HWY 93 South, Kalispell, MT
POLSON - Wednesday November 28, 2012 Time: 9:00 am. Kwa TaqNuk Resort, 49708 US HWY 93 East, Polson, MT
HOT SPRINGS - Wednesday November 28, 2012 Time: 3:00 pm. Salish Senior Center, 214 N. Spring Street, Hot Springs, MT
THOMPSON FALLS - Wednesday November 28, 2012 Time: 7:30 pm. Thompson Falls High School Band Room, 601 Golf Street, Thompson Falls, MT
ARLEE - Thursday November 29, 2012 Time: 10:00 am. Arlee Senior Center, 106 Wessinger Street, Arlee, MT
HAMILTON - Thursday November 29, 2012 Time: 3:00 pm. Ravalli County Administrative Center, Third Floor Conference Room, 215 South 4th Street, Hamilton, MT
MISSOULA - Thursday November 29, 2012 Time: 7:30 pm. Double Tree Edgewater, Blackfoot Room, 100 Madison, Missoula, MT
DEER LODGE - Tuesday December 4, 2012 Time: 9:00 am. Powell County Community Center, 416 Cottonwood Avenue, Deer Lodge, MT
PHILIPSBURG - Tuesday December 4, 2012 Time: 2:00 pm. Granite County Museum, 135 N. Sansome Street, Phillipsburg, MT
OVANDO - Tuesday December 4, 2012 Time: 7:30 pm. Ovando School Gym, 108 Birch Street, Ovando, MT