This West Is OUR West

Attention Irrigators and Friends: Update on CSKT Compact

Hello Irrigators and friends,

Please feel free to share this information with other interested parties.  Today I learned from a "Reliable Source" (and you can take this to the bank!!), the following:

The State Legislators bill, S. 262 was folded into federal Senate Bill 3013 introduced in the Senate in Washington DC by Senator John Tester.  S. 3013 became the "CSKT Water Compact."  However, Senator Tester changed the character, scope and funding of the State Legislature's bill and greatly expanded both area of water jurisdiction for the tribe, and he ramped up the funding in the bill by billions.  This caused a long delay for moving the CSKT Water Compact forward, when the Department of Interior (under the Obama Administration) questioned the new "billions" Tester tucked into S. 3013.

There is a very real legal question to be asked regarding Senator Tester and S. 3013:  Does a federal senator have the authority to change the scope, character and funding of a Montana Legislatures bill (S. 262), overriding the Montana State Legislature?  I'm not an attorney but I believe a State bill is a State bill, and should have been left exactly as the Montana legislature passed it.

S. 3013 was introduced into the Senate in last year's Congressional session. Upon being introduced it was sent to a Senate Committee on natural resources...and never came out.  S. 3013 never received a vote in the Senate last year.  S. 3013 is dead on arrival (DOA).

We're in a new session (2017-2018) in Congress and Senator Tester will have to re-introduce a new bill into the federal Senate to resurrect the proposed CSKT Water Compact.  He has not done so yet.  Also, at no time in the last Congressional session, or this current session, has any Companion bill to the CKST Water Compact been introduced in the House of Representatives.

I'm told that Senator Tester lacks support from his Montana colleagues in Congress regarding the CSKT Water Compact, but it would be very advisable for voters to communicate with Rep. Gianforte and strongly encourage that he firmly oppose the CSKT Water Compact, and decline to introduce a "Companion BIll" in the House of Representatives.

I've also learned that the Chairman of the FJBC has been aware of this status for some time, but it has not been shared with FJBC irrigators.

There's speculation that Senator Tester will re-introduce a CSKT Water Compact bill in the current session of Congress, but may be waiting for a time closer to the 2018 election.  I personally hope he's stupid enough to do that! <grin> We are now in a different political world with the Trump Administration, a Republican Senate and Republican House.  Hopefully, this will work to our advantage but there's no guarantee. 

I track Congressional Bills and the daily Federal Register, as do other colleagues of mine, so we will be watching for any future movement of this CSKT Compact in Congress.  At no time, should we drop our guard or minimize our opposition to this Compact's theft of private water rights and the State's abandonment of its jurisdiction over its State waters internal and external to the reservation.

Lastly, the Constitutional challenge to the CKST Water Compact is a case sitting at the Montana State Supreme Court, and has been there for well over a year.  Any future ruling coming out of the Montana State Court may have profound impact upon the Compact...which may explain such a lengthy delay in receiving a ruling from this Court.

As a refresher, I've attached an article I wrote some time ago, which is about issues we should all remember and confront.

Best regards,
Elaine Willman

Are Your Elected Officials Forsaking You?