Legislators Gather to Learn about CSKT Water Compact at Education Session

by mercury

February 7th, 2015

Shelby DeMars

Legislators Gather to Learn about CSKT Water Compact at Education Session

(Helena, Mont.)—Today legislators from across the state gathered at an education session on the CSKT Water Compact at the Montana State Capitol. The education session, which was hosted solely to provide elected officials every possible opportunity to ask questions on the Compact, was an effort spearheaded by the Compact bill sponsor and Water Policy Interim Committee Chairman, Senator Chas Vincent.

“Providing my fellow legislators with every possible opportunity to ask questions and make an educated policy decision when they cast their vote on the CSKT Water Compact is of the utmost importance to me,” said Senator Vincent. “Not passing the Compact will have serious implications for water users across Montana. I want to make sure that everyone clearly understands what those impacts will be.”

One of the largest threats facing Montana farmers, ranchers, and water users is the onslaught of litigation that would ensue if the tribes are forced to litigate in order to determine their water rights. If the Compact fails, the tribes are required by the state to litigate their claims in Water Court that would span from the Flathead to just west of Billings.

“The CSKT claims that would be filed if the Compact fails will be prima facia proof of their contents, similar to every other claim in the adjudication,” said Colleen Coyle, a former Montana Water Court Judge who participated in the educational session and addressed questions dealing with the Montana Water Court. “The tribe will litigate their claims in the Montana Water Court and individual Montanans will have to shoulder the financial burden of defending their water rights in court.”

The educational session was attended by over 50 legislators that utilized the opportunity to seek further clarification on the Compact prior to the upcoming hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday, February 16th at 8:00 am.

Farmers And Ranchers for Montana (FARM) is a coalition of hundreds of farmers and ranchers, united with local leaders, tribal governments, businesses, water-users, and other Montanans who support the approval of a Water Compact.

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