Op-Ed: Passage of the CSKT Water Compact is Good for Montana


Montana Farmers Union stands with the Agriculture Coalition in supporting the CSKT Water Compact that was passed in 2015 the Montana Legislature and is now in the hands of the U.S. Congress to ratify. Agriculture faces uncertainty in many areas including low commodity prices and weather that threatens adequate water supply. Water is our state’s most valuable resource and the CSKT protects this resource in many ways.


First and foremost the CSKT Water Compact removes the threat of litigation Montana water users face. Secondly the CSKT Water Compact will provide certainty for water usage on the Flathead Reservation that water rights will be in-line with the state’s water rights.


Montana’s cities will have reassurance that their water supply will adequately support their infrastructure. In addition, we must consider the effects on Montana’s tourism industry which depends on the viability and recreation opportunities of our lakes, rivers and streams. Finally, access to financing and capital could be at risk if the CSKT Water Compact is not ratified. This could hurt beginning and next generation farmers.  Bottom line is that the CSKT is the only viable compact that can address these water rights claims. We urge you to contact your senators and congressman and tell them to ratify the CSKT Water Compact today!


Alan Merrill – President, Montana Farmers Union

On behalf of the MFU Policy Committee

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Walter Morris

It seems to me that one of the duties to be met by any individual must comply with when they agree to lead any organization is to familiarize themselves with any subject that they support. having been associated with the CSKT compact since before it was dishonestly forced through the Montana State Legislature. I would suggest that anyone supporting the CSKT compact , make them aware of what said compact says and you will stop lying to your constituents. I have only been able to talk to a very few people that know anything that is in said compact and all of them strongly oppose said compact. Please do your job and represent those members of your organization. Thank you for doing the job you accepted.

Susan Duncan

Thank you Montana Farmers Union. I have been on the Board of the Association of Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators for almost 15 years. We are an organization that represents about 400 irrigators in the Gallatin Valley. The CSKT Compact legislation has the most far reaching effects for Montana and Gallatin Valley irrigators and residents that I have seen in that time. Passage of this legislation provides security and stability in water for irrigators, recreation, and urban uses.

If the Compact fails to pass Congress
1. We have wasted decades of hard fought, detailed negotiations at the Federal, State, and tribal level.
2. Irrigators literally haven’t a legal leg to stand on in court to defend our rights (dating from the 1860’s in Gallatin County) against Indian claims in the upper Gallatin of “time immemorial” granted by the Treaty of Hellgate in 1855. What expert witness can we call to say there were no Native Americans in the Gallatin Watershed before 1860?
3. The State-wide Montana Water Court Adjudication (that is now coming to a conclusion after almost 40 years) will re-open to evaluate 10,000 additional Indian claims. And no end of litigation in sight.
If this doesn’t pass, the irrigated farm we built from scratch since 1979 and the herd of heritage cattle we raise – our life’s work – may no longer be viable at any level. We have 1872 and 1888 water rights in the West Gallatin and our neighbors have 1865 rights (part of the third oldest right on the West Gallatin). Those old rights allow us to make a call to bring the water down river to I-90 in July and August. If we no longer have the oldest rights, we cannot insure that the river will not be dry at I-90.

Walter Morris

Thanks for your reply as it states every fact that I have pointed out. I have read and re read your reply every since it appeared, the last paragraph graphically states everything I pointed out. If the CSKT is fully implemented, all of our water rights will be totally worthless and will become impossible to be defended in any court of law. Contrary to what has been promised by FARM and all of the so called negotiators of the CSKT Compact, our many times proven Montana State water rights will be deemed totally worthless. There has never been proven any water right to the Indian Tribes other than the amount of water necessary to sustain their living on thee lands within any Indian Reservation for the lands claimed and owned by members of said Indian Tribes.

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