The CSKT Water Compact is much more than just a piece of legislation; it is a negotiated agreement that ensures the future of agriculture in our state. Without the Compact, the tribes would have to define their water rights through litigation in the Montana Water Court — a costly, time-consuming and uncertain process that would have dire consequences for Montana taxpayers, landowners and water-users across our state. The tribes would have the earliest priority date of any water users. Failure to ratify the compact would not bode well for those with non-tribal water rights.
The CSKT Water compact not only protects existing water and property rights, but it ensures that water is appropriately managed and conserved to mitigate damage during times of drought.
Additionally, the compact limits the ability of the federal government to mandate how Montana manages our water resources when it comes to protecting species like the bull trout. Without the compact, the federal government would be able to divert water resources away from agriculture and irrigation to preserve the habitat of certain species. With the compact, we are able to address issues such as this with Montana-made solutions, not federal ones.
I hope that members of our congressional delegation will support the compact through the ratification process. Montana’s most valuable resource is at stake, and we can’t afford to let this agreement be derailed by partisan politics and misinformation.