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Conservative Republicans assail Daines support of Montana Water Rights Protection Act

Posted at 8:00 AM, Dec 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-29 10:20:08-05

A group of conservative Montana legislators are taking aim at one of their own over support of the Montana Water Rights Protection Act.

A letter sent to MTN News states that "in a clear betrayal of our state and of President Trump, Senator Daines slipped the CSKT Water Compact into the coronavirus relief bill, despite his legislation having nothing to do with coronavirus."

The letter further states that "with a less than 5% chance of being enacted, the deceptively-named “Montana Water Rights Protection Act” was added at the last minute. This went against his oath of office in which he swore on the Bible to protect the constitution."

State senator Al Olszewski and other opponents of the deal previously said that the legislation gives too much potential power to the tribes over water and land on the Flathead Reservation.

“Our constitutional water rights are worth fighting for, even it means going to court,” Olszewski previously told MTN News. “If we can keep the water fight in the Water Court in the state of Montana, all judicial precedent goes to us.”

MTN News reached out to Daines for a response to the letter.

"Without this bill, thousands of Montanans would have been forced into very expensive litigation and Montana's economy would’ve take over a one billion dollar hit," a spokesperson for Sen. Daines' office stated in an email.

"This bill is a win for ALL Montanans. Senator Daines has been transparent with all Montana voters who overwhelmingly re-elected him about this bill, including working with folks on all sides of the issue to get feedback, and revised the bill to make it better for all Montanans," the statement concluded.

The spokesperson also notes that the Montana Water Rights Protection Act was not part of the COVID-19 relief package, noting the legislation was part of the year-end appropriations bill.

Read the full letter below:

“In a clear betrayal of our state and of President Trump, Senator Daines slipped the CSKT Water Compact into the coronavirus relief bill, despite his legislation having nothing to do with coronavirus. With a less than 5% chance of being enacted, the deceptively-named “Montana Water Rights Protection Act” was added at the last minute. This went against his oath of office in which he swore on the Bible to protect the constitution.

Meanwhile, six of the Senate's conservative stalwarts voted against the bill. Daines was not among them. He voted for the nearly 6,000 page bill after having received it a few hours before without time to read it. This was a sad day for the people of Montana and showed blatant disregard for the will of the People.

We will continue this battle in court, where we are confident the CSKT Water Compact will see defeat. Montanans want this issue to ultimately be resolved in Montana in accordance with existing state and federal law. This is exactly what we had asked Senator Daines do. However he proceeded unilaterally to hurt Montana when he acted as a member of the DC Swamp that voters rejected in 2016 and 2020.”

House Majority Leader Brad Tschida (R-Missoula)Sen. Al Olszewski (R-Kalispell)Sen. Dee Brown (R-Hungry Horse)Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell)Rep. Alan Redfield (R-Livingston)Sen. Bob Keenan (R-Big Fork)MTGOP Vice Chair, Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway (R-Great Falls)Rep.-Elect Steve Galloway (R-Great Falls)Rep. Greg DeVries (R-Jefferson City)Sen. Roger Webb (R-Billings)Rep. Peggy Webb (R-Billings)Sen. Dave Howard (R-Park City)Sen. Keith Regier (R-Kalispell)Rep. Carl Glimm (R-Kalispell)Rep.-Elect Amy Regier (R-Kalispell)Rep. Theresa Manzella (R-Hamilton)Rep. Matt Regier (R-Kalispell)Rep. Joe Read (R-Ronan)

Drew ZineckerAide to Rep. Brad Tschida (R-Missoula)Montana House of Representatives