The looming deadline for the state to ratify the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ water compact should have farmers and rancher squirming. This legislative session is the last chance for the compact to be approved. Sixteen tribal compacts have been signed in our state — and the Salish and Kootenai compact needs to join them.
Should the state fail to approve a compact, the water rights of water users across Montana will be uncertain. If the compact isn’t finalized, the cost of litigation fees alone will bring many farm and ranch operations to a halt. Montana’s agriculture industry can’t afford to have uncertain water rights and then wait in line with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other farmers to determine how much water I can or can’t use.
The compact will protect all existing rights for domestic, commercial, municipal, industrial, stock water or non-irrigation users — and avoid creating an overwhelming backlog of claims in the Montana Water Court. If we don’t pass the compact, Montana’s water users will be in a world of hurt. —Martha D. Humphreys, Noxon