HAMILTON — A judge has approved a settlement in a dispute over a state rule that allowed tens of thousands of rural homes to be built without water permits.
Rural homes can be built in Montana without a water permit if they have their own well. But ranchers and conservation groups say aquifers can be strained beyond capacity by such exemptions.
The Ravalli Republic reports the agreement signed by Judge Jeffrey Sherlock last Friday requires the state Department of Natural Resources to consider "the cumulative or collective impacts" that results from multiple, unconnected wells.
DNRS deputy director Joe Lamson says the state began work this week on the rule change.
Clark Fork Coalition executive director Karen Knudsen says the settlement is a first step in closing the loophole.