The looming deadline for the state to ratify the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribesí 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 ó 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 isnít finalized, the cost of litigation fees alone will bring many farm and ranch operations to a halt. Montanaís agriculture industry canít 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 canít use.
The compact will protect all existing rights for domestic, commercial, municipal, industrial, stock water or non-irrigation users ó and avoid creating an overwhelming backlog of claims in the Montana Water Court. If we donít pass the compact, Montanaís water users will be in a world of hurt. óMartha D. Humphreys, Noxon