The Salish and Kootenai Water Compact under consideration by the Montana Legislature is a complex agreement that has taken years, and many changes and improvements to produce. The result is compact language that is good for all Montanans. The water interests of all irrigators are protected, and the instream flow rights of the tribes are satisfied. The tribal rights have to be defined by compact in order to prevent years of litigation in federal court.
The compact requires improvements to existing water systems including installing new measurement devices, canal linings, upgraded and automated head gates, and numerous other improvements to prevent waste. These improvements conserve the water needed to satisfy the irrigators. (See Appendix 3.4 of the water compact) You can view the compact at www.montanawatercompact.com or mt.gov/dnrc.
Last session the Legislature did not pass the compact and asked all involved to try again to reach a compromise. The affected parties tried their best, full well knowing that if they failed the tribes would turn to the federal courts. Prior federal court rulings have been in the tribes’ favor and probably will be in the future.
I would like to thank all who have spent so much time to arrive at compact language that satisfies the needs of all, keeping us out of federal court, where it is likely no one will like the outcome. —Wayne Stahl, Saco Republican, former representative, HD 35