U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Montana After Wyoming’s Violations of Yellowstone River Compact
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state of Montana after deciding the state suffered damages as the result of Wyoming’s failure to abide by terms of the Yellowstone River Compact with respect to waters of the Tongue River. Attorney General Tim Fox said the lawsuit was Montana seeking to require Wyoming to pay damages for years in which the state didn’t provide water, among other things.
"But also, try to come up with some sort of mechanism going forward so that Wyoming wouldn't stonewall Montana, particularly in drought years, when we call for more water," Fox said. "We had tried this case a while back, it had gone back up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court essentially ratified the Special Master's decision in the case, which is good for Montana."
Fox said Wyoming acknowledged that it violated terms of the Compact by failing to provide water to Montana when called upon to do so last April.
"It means for Montana that we'll finally get some recourse and satisfaction in requiring Wyoming when we make a call for water, they will then be required to shut down water users in Wyoming, so that more water comes across the state line for Montana water users," Fox said. "That portion of the lawsuit is yet to be worked out."
The state originally filed suit against Wyoming in 2007 over issues with Wyoming’s noncompliance with a 1950’s water compact that was set up to provide a mechanism for the states to come to agreement when water shortages may cause problems.