Senate President: Compact Throws Montanans Under the Bus

Aaron Flint posted on February 12, 2015 16:28 :: 875 Views

Opponents to the CSKT Water Compact are stepping up their criticism ahead of hearings in the Montana Legislature, and in the midst of a significant PR push to promote passage of the compact.  Dave Skinner writes in his latest column that the CSKT were first to court, and last to negotiate.  Meanwhile, Gloria Roark pens a guest opinion column for The Great Falls Tribune where she ties the pro-compact funding to former Congressman Denny Rehberg’s (R-MT) consulting firm. 

But first, the President of the State Senate, Debby Barrett (R-Dillon) has this for The Hungry Horse News: Compact throws thousands of Montanans ‘under the bus’ 

I recognize there are powerful supporters of SB 262, including some elected officials who managed to negotiate changes to the proposals, protecting their constituents at home. Having heard the evidence as a member of the Compact Commission, I believe the off-reservation in stream flow water rights the Compact gives are not scientifically based or well-grounded in law or history. But I also recognize that the CSKT and their public relations people have artfully threatened much of the state with water right filings for in stream flows if the Legislature doesn’t simply accept this “take it or leave it” deal.

As a rancher and a senator who values little ahead of private property rights, I think I know when to call a bluff, and when to stand my ground no matter what. This is such a time. Not all values and principles should be compromised away. I do not believe my fellow ranchers and farmers really want to turn their backs on the thousands of Montanans whose property, including water rights, will be devastated by this proposal.

Dave Skinner for The Flathead Beacon: Compacting the Future; CSKT were first into court and last to the negotiating table

Right now, off-reservation water users are scared silent, terrorized by the idea they might be sucked into the water vortex if CSKT does what it has threatened – filing claims with “immemorial” priority dates and high base instream flows on both sides of the Divide.

So, standing alone by themselves are the reservation irrigators, folks not known for having the sort of cash needed to hire bionic water lawyers. Innocent circumstance? Naw – blunt force strategy.
In terms of future water rights, a signed compact will close the Clark Fork basin and Kootenai River. New water users will need to lease rights from CSKT, rights currently unallocated held in reserve behind Hungry Horse Dam – 90,000 acre feet. But CSKT will only be obligated to lease a small portion of that water, around 15,000 acre feet, while the rest – they can choose to lease, or not lease.

Gloria Roark in The Great Falls Tribune: New bullies on the block push water compact

The alleged coalition of Farmers and Ranchers of Montana, or FARM, was created by a group of individuals with the assistance and guidance of Mercury. Mercury (officials), by their own admission on their website, describe themselves as a “high stakes public strategy firm who use their expertise and reach to gain competitive advantage for clients.”

Mercury consists of Republican Denny Rehberg, co-chairman of their Washington, D.C., office.

These costs are paid with monies that the tribe has received most recently from the federal government in settlements, specifically $2.8 million…….that’s you and me! One million dollars was designated to Mercury, and the balance is being used to fund events and pay for various expenses as they arise to achieve their success in getting the compact passed.

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