• Categories

County Conniving Concerning the CSKT Compact

Irrigation-Canal-Jocko-DistrictSo, let’s talk about the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact. This session of the Montana Legislature will take up ratification of the Compact. The last session failed to ratify the negotiated settlement and extended the term of the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission (RWCC) to make a few changes to the agreement.

Montana, the CSKT and the Federal Government have been negotiating this legal settlement for more than 20 years to quantify the CSKT reserved water rights. The Commission successfully negotiated 17 other agreements for federally reserved water rights including six water compacts with Indian tribes within the state. Reserved water rights are legally created with the creation of any federal reserve, such as an Indian reservation, national forest, national wildlife refuge, national monument, etc. There are two ways to quantify these reserved water rights, through costly and time-consuming court actions, or through negotiated agreements between the parties. In 1979, the State of Montana chose to create the RWCC to negotiate for the state all reserved water rights claims. The negotiated agreements settle for all time legitimate and legal water rights claims. All of these claims have been successfully negotiated with little or no opposition.

This is the last chance we have to reach an equitable negotiated agreement. Under state law, if this Compact is not ratified prior to June 30, 2015, the Tribes have no alternative but to attempt to quantify their legal water rights through the court system. This solution will cost water users across Montana millions of dollars defending their legitimate water rights and will take decades to reach a conclusion. The Tribes will likely gain many more, and stricter rights to Montana water through lawsuits, but would prefer the simpler and cheaper negotiated agreement they have spent many years to reach.

There have been many letters in the local press supporting and objecting to the ratification of the CSKT Compact. Most of the objections offer very little, if any, legal challenge to the Compact, but rather offer claims that seem to be based in biased opinion. The Flathead County Commission recently sent a letter to Governor Bullock objecting to the Compact. The letter was mostly written by Commissioner Phil Mitchell with the help of a supposedly anonymous lawyer. The letter was approved and sent by two of the commissioners with no public input. The commission letter makes virtually no sense and offers insubstantial arguments against the agreement. This week, the Governor responded with a memorandum from his legal staff including a point-by-point refutation of the letter from the County Commission. Mitchell, who was the primary architect behind the commission’s letter to the state, told the Beacon that though he hadn’t yet read the governor’s letter, he was going to stand by his opinions about the compact.”

In his response, the Governor told the County Commission that “based on my engagement with this issue over the course of the last two years – that many of your concerns are rooted in significant misunderstandings about the Compact. As the memorandum makes clear, the Compact protects the homes, businesses, and communities of Flathead County.” His reply is a lot more polite than I could have been in response to their delirious comments, but obviously not polite enough to sway crazy people.

In a news story this morning (01/27) on the Governor’s reaction, Mitchell said the HE is drafting another letter and that HE “will reiterate the commissioners continued opposition to the compact as it’s currently written.” This begins to sound more like a personal tiff between Phil Mitchell with his small cadre of crackpot stealth advisors and the Governor, and less and less like legitimate county business. Will this new letter get a public airing and public comment prior to being sent to the Governor’s office? Is Phil Mitchell willing to make changes to his response based on actual facts that have not been many times refuted? Will Mitchell reveal the names of the people who are helping to write his response? Will the county be billed for legal advice silently received by the Commission?

I, for one, personally resent that our elected county officials continue to misrepresent the opinion of the people of Flathead County in order to further their own personal bias. Mitchell is using intentional misinformation and falsehoods to support a position that does not represent the best interests, or opinion of most of the people who pay his salary. And on top of that, his position could cost his constituents a considerable amount in unwarranted legal costs.

 

Advertisements

One Response

  1. […] County Conniving Concerning the CSKT Compact | – “There have been many letters in the local press supporting and objecting to the ratification of the CSKT Compact. Most of the objections offer very little, if any, legal challenge to the Compact, but rather offer claims that seem to be based in biased opinion. The Flathead County Commission recently sent a letter to Governor Bullock objecting to the Compact. The letter was mostly written by Commissioner Phil Mitchell with the help of a supposedly anonymous lawyer. The letter was approved and sent by two of the commissioners with no public input. The commission letter makes virtually no sense and offers insubstantial arguments against the agreement. This week, the Governor responded with a memorandum from his legal staff including a point-by-point refutation of the letter from the County Commission. “Mitchell, who was the primary architect behind the commission’s letter to the state, told the Beacon that though he hadn’t yet read the governor’s letter, he was going to stand by his opinions about the compact.”” The Button Valley Bugle […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: