[HELENA, Mont.] – After a century long Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) water dispute, the Montana Rights Protection Act passed both houses of Congress on Monday with the 2021 Omnibus and COVID Relief Bill.
The Montana Water Rights Protection Act, which sets up a $1.9 billion trust fund, ensures historical water use by all water users on and off the reservation are protected. The legislation defines the federally reserved water rights of the CSKT and settles legal claims.
“Thank you to Senator Daines and Senator Tester for their leadership and continued perseverance for a permanent water settlement. An additional thanks goes to Representative Gianforte for his stewardship in the house,” said Jim Steinbiesser, Montana Stockgrowers Association President. “The success of Montana’s agriculture industry is dependent upon water and water rights certainty. It is easily the single most important resource for people across Montana, which is why MSGA has long supported an agreement such as the Montana Water Rights Protection Act.”
The Montana Water Rights Protection Act will permanently eliminate 97% of all CSKT’s water rights claims across Montana, which will save taxpayers over $400 million and protect the water rights of all Montanans. Simply put, the Montana Water Rights Protection Act protects Montanans’ due process by giving them access to state courts over water disputes between tribal and non-tribal members.
It also affirms Montanans’ Constitutional protection that the water of the State of Montana belongs to all the people for their common benefit (Article IX, Section 3). It will prevent years of costly litigation for Montana water users, and provide much needed certainty for all parties involved.
The Montana Legislature approved the compact in 2015. The bill will now head to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Check out MSGA’s past articles on the CSKT Water Compact:
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