Water compact

Gov. Steve Bullock joined by bill sponsor Sen. Chas Vincent, Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick, left, and Tribal Chairman Vernon Finley, right, signs SB262, the water use agreement among the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the state and federal governments, into law Friday in the Governor's Reception Room in Helena.

THOM BRIDGE/Independent Record

PABLO — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes plan to file more than 2,800 water claims both on and off the Flathead Indian Reservation next week in Helena.

Tribal attorneys will also ask the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to stay any action on the claims pending further decisions on a state-approved water compact that could nullify the need for the filings.

CSKT spokesman Rob McDonald said Thursday that the tribes plan to file 2,815 water claims on June 25.

State law requires that any such claims be filed by July 1. If they aren’t, CSKT forfeits its right to do so.

The compact, approved by the Montana Legislature this year, still faces approval by the U.S. Congress and the Tribal Council.

The Montana Water Court must also issue a final water rights decree that incorporates the water rights quantified in the compact, and all portions of the final Water Court decree must survive all avenues of appeal.

“While Gov. (Steve) Bullock signed the compact into state law April 24, there are still numerous steps ahead before the compact becomes finalized,” McDonald explained. 

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