The choice that our elected officials in the Montana House will be making on the CSKT Water Compact will have far reaching impacts for water users across our state.
Looking at this issue in context of the Gallatin River system only, failure to ratify the CSKT Water Compact will result in senior water right owners in the Gallatin losing their first-in-time, first-in-right priority to Gallatin River water during periods of low flow. Without the compact, water right owners across the state will face similar scenarios.
Given this effect to constituents who own senior water rights, why would any legislator oppose the CSKT Compact? The only answer to date that I have heard from opponents of the compact is that they believe or feel the CSKT treaty language does not create a valid water right for instream flows. Unfortunately, what someone feels or believes won’t protect them in court.
Opponents of the compact, if successful, are forcing senior water right owners to re-litigate these issues at their expense. Such opponents are completely ignoring or forgetting the compact as drafted results in the CSKT waiving its right to file water right claims in the Gallatin, and in many other areas.
Ratifying the compact will secure and protect existing senior water rights in the Gallatin and prevent a tremendous waste of senior water right owners’ time and resources. I urge our elected officials to please consider the facts and support the compact.