At a hearing Wednesday Sen. Steve Daines presented his Montana Water Rights Protection Act to the members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, will define the federally reserved water rights of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes and settle the legal claims of the Tribes against the federal government.
The Montana Water Rights Protection Act marks a historic move towards settling the century-long dispute by providing protections for existing water users across Montana and preventing costly litigation. The legislation also invests much needed financial resources into Montana infrastructure projects and updates to the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project, which will create over 6,000 jobs in Montana.
During the hearing, Trump administration officials with the U.S. Department of the Interior cited that this legislation is the best, and least costly, path forward for Montanans, and would protect Montana’s agriculture industry against a $1.3 billion hit if the legislation is not passed.
“We appreciate the work and time that both Senator Daines and Senator Tester have put into this agreement and we are excited that a solution to provide water right certainty to Montanans is now fully supported by the Trump Administration and is finally moving forward in Congress,” said FARM Co-Chair Lorents Grosfield. “This legislative solution will create jobs, protect our economy, and will ensure the availability of water for future generations of Montanans, while saving Montana taxpayers, farmers and ranchers millions of dollars.”
The CSKT Water Compact, which is a component of the settlement legislation, has received broad support from every major agriculture and water use group in the state, as well as irrigators, businesses, and local governments.
Farmers and Ranchers for Montana (FARM) is a grassroots coalition committed to fair water policies and the implementation of the Montana Water Compact that secures water resources for all Montanans.
For more information visit www.montanawatercompact.com.