The Montana Water Rights Protection Act is a bill supported by both Montana Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester that intends ‘To Protect Access to Water for all Montanans, and for Other Purposes’.

Daines says this act ‘permanently relinquishes 97% of all CSKT’s water rights claims with prejudice across Montana, saves taxpayers over $400 million and protects Montanans’ due process by giving them access to state courts over water disputes between tribal and non-tribal members’.

One opposing voice to the new bill is from Republican Gubernatorial candidate Dr. Al Olszewski, who called in to the KGVO Talk Back Program this week.

“I have now had the opportunity to read the bill completely and in detail,” said Olszewski. “In return for the CSKT removing their claims for water east of the mountains all the way beyond Billings, totaling 10,000 claims, the tribes were given the National Bison Range along with an additional 36,000 acres that the federal government is planning to give to the tribes. These are state lands which they will exchange for federal lands somewhere else in the state.”

Olszewski then pointed out a part of the bill that in his view affects the Missoula and western Montana areas.

“The talking points said that they protected 97 percent of  Montanans’ water rights, but the three percent not included is you,” he said. “They did not relinquish their aboriginal rights of control in Missoula, Lake, Ravalli, Mineral and Sanders Counties, so congratulations, you’ve been left on the table.”

Olszewski brought up a conversation that he said occurred when the CSKT Water Compact was being argued in the Montana Legislature.

“When this was asked during the Compact mission through many public hearings, Senator Verdell Jackson and Senator Bob Keenan stood up and asked the tribes, does this mean that you have the right to put a meter on our wells and charge us for it?  The tribes counsel said, technically, yes, we do have that right, but we won’t do it,” he said. “So, who knows what will happen in the future?”

KGVO has reached out to CSKT Communications Director Rob McDonald for a comment, but has not yet received a reply.