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Tribes Threaten to Sue After State Legislature Kills Water Rights Compact Bills

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Photo courtesy of Joe Gratz/Flickr

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A spokesman for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes says the state Legislature’s failure to ratify a water-rights compact has left the tribes no choice but to take legal action.

Communications Director Rob McDonald says the Legislature’s decision to kill House Bill 629 and House Bill 636 sends a “chilling message” to the tribes.

The compact is the result of at least a decade of negotiations between the tribes and the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission. Supporters say the compact would allow current irrigators access to plenty of water, while granting the tribes some off-reservation in-stream flow rights promised to them in an 1855 treaty with the U.S.

Critics say the compact negotiations were rushed. They support Senate Bill 265, which would extend negotiations for two years.

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