The Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission was created by the Montana legislature in 1979 to:
• conclude compacts for the equitable division and apportionment of waters between the State and its people and the several Indian Tribes claiming reserved water rights within the state(MCA 85-2-701), and
• between the State and its people and the federal government claiming non-Indian reserved waters within the state (MCA 85-2-703).
Up to this point, the Commission has settled 15 reserved water rights compacts with tribes, BLM, Department of Interior, National Parks Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are three remaining compacts that need to be settled before the Commission sunsets in July of 2013. Those three compacts are the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge, and the Salish Kootenai Tribal Compact for the Flathead Indian Reservation.
Last Thursday, the second negotiation meeting was held for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument. Melissa Hornbein is part of the legal staff for the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Montana.
A bit more contentious are the negotiations for the CMR Wildlife Refuge. The first negotiation meeting for these water rights will take place this Thursday, March 15 at 1:00 in Lewistown at the Yogo Inn. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend.
CLICK HERE to see the list of streams that could be affected by the CMR water rights compact.
Melissa reiterated that whenever the federal government makes a reservation of land out of the public domain, they have also at the same time – whether explicitly or implicitly – reserved water rights sufficient to carry out the purpose of the reservation.
For more details on any of these water rights compacts, visit the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission website.
© Northern Ag Network 2012