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Flathead Water Compact advances with stimulus bill approval

US Capitol
Posted at 11:19 AM, Dec 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-22 13:19:06-05

WASHINGTON, DC — A spending measure that’s part of the attached spending plan that was passed on Monday evening includes a major development supported by Montana US Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines -- nearly $2 billion dollars to help settle, and ratify, the Flathead tribal water rights compact.

Montana's Congressional delegation worked hard the past few days to include the Montana Water Rights Protection Act as part of the attached Omnibus Spending legislation.

The Act will resolve decades of negotiation and dispute over tribal water rights in the Flathead Basin, providing a $1.9 billion settlement to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT).

It would answer questions lingering under terms of the 1855 Hellgate Treaty, providing billions for improvements to the extensive irrigation system in the Flathead Basin. And it could save hundreds of millions of dollars by heading off expensive litigation in the decades to come.

This will protect the water rights of all Montanans. It's going to save taxpayer dollars. It'll create jobs. It'll modernize infrastructure. And, importantly, prevent costly litigation," said Sen. Daines.

"It's important for the entire State of Montana. And it's going to help everybody. And water is life, and it's really important we get this stuff settled so we don't end up litigating it out in court for decades and decades and decades," said Sen. Tester.

The measure also transfers the operation of the National Bison Range to the tribe.

In a statement this evening, CSKT Tribal Chairwoman Shelly Fyant calls this "one of the most significant days in the history of our people."