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I attended an informational meeting a few weeks ago on the “Peoples Compact.” There were five Kalispell legislators there to tell their story on why they didn’t like the CSKT compact that is now Montana law.

If what they said that night was even remotely true, I would not like it either. The sad part is that what they said is not true.

One legislator said if it passed Congress, all the other compacts would open up. All compacts including the CSKT compact have a finality clause that says they cannot reopen negotiations. They are a final settlement. Negotiations do not set legal precedent, only litigation sets legal precedent.

Another legislator claimed that the Unitary Management Ordinance would give the tribe control over water off the reservation. The UMB is patterned after the Montana State Water Act and is in force only on the reservation. Not only that, it is a joint state and tribal board. In other compacts in the state non-tribal members cannot file for new rights on those reservations. With the UMB both tribal and non-tribal members have the same opportunity for new rights. All state-based water rights remain as they are permitted with the DNRC or as they will be in the Montana Water Adjudication process. Off the reservation, the DNRC still maintains total control.

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They also maintained that they had no input in the process. While the compact negotiation went on for many years with participation from citizen legislators, scientists and legal staff, and years of public hearings, this small group did not like the outcome. Doesn’t mean they did not get to participate.

Now they are promoting a supposed “Peoples Compact” that was written up in secret by anonymous individuals with ties to an anonymous group. I guess I don’t like that.

Susan Lake

Ronan

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