Water compact needed to avoid multiple lawsuits

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The Water Compact (Senate Bill 262) between the state of Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is now before our Legislature. 

Many folks in the Flathead Valley may think it is of little consequence whether it is approved or not. But It makes a real difference — here’s why:

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a senior water right over surface AND groundwater (our wells that supply water to our homes.) This water right covers the entire Flathead River Basin.If the compact is NOT approved, each homeowner will have to defend his/her water right and that means paying for a lawyer to represent them before the Water Court.

If the water compact IS approved, then those individuals with an existing water right will have their water right legally recognized. No further action will be necessary; hence no additional money to pay.

Under current Montana law, the tribes must file their claim for their water right by June 30 of this year. That means our Legislature must approve the Water Compact this session OR we will all have to defend our water rights in court AT OUR EXPENSE. Our county commissioners will NOT pay for the legal defense of your water right; YOU WILL! It is your best financial interest to encourage your legislator to approve the Water Compact NOW! —Chris Hagar, Bigfork

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