So we are paying them to take away our water rights?

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April 19, 2014

“You say the Indian Water Compact requires Montanans to pay the Indians $55 million to take our water. Don’t you mean instead that the Indians are paying the state of Montana $55 million for our water rights?”

“No,” the legislator supporting the compact replied, “the Indians get $55 million to ‘implement’ the conditions of the water compact, which means taking our water.”
I sat stunned as the meaning of these statements sunk into my consciousness. I said “No one in their right mind would vote for such a farce.”

“Oh no”, this gentleman went on to say, “in fact, there will be other ongoing payments to the Indians as well.” My mind reeled as I considered how such ridiculousness could ever be seriously considered by our elected officials.

Changing to another point, I said “Do you realize the Indians are using a hammer to herd our citizens into support for this legislation? They are threatening the citizens of our state by saying they would initiate 10,000 lawsuits, all funded by the federal government, against every irrigator or other major water user ‘forever’ until they get what they want. No wonder we have so many water rights holders clamoring for the compact which supposedly guarantees their water rights even if it is only for a few years.”

I continued by asking the legislator I was talking to if he had ever considered voting for the citizens of the state of Montana instead of the Indians and the federal government. Incredulous, he asked me what I meant.

I said why not vote against the compact and, in addition, vote for another bill which would set aside $55 million as a defense fund for all water users in the state and for our future generations as well to fight this illegal water (and private property) grab.

“Better yet,” I suggested, “set the money aside for a class-action lawsuit for all the citizens of the state. After all, it is their money and, in reality, you wouldn’t be spending an extra cent relative to what you are giving away in the compact. If you did put up this money for our citizens it would even up the fight now funded so liberally by the federal government, which is the real entity making this grab for our assets. Also, by taking the onus of the defense costs off of our water users, you could give them the ability to analyze the true impact of the compact without this gun pointed at their heads”.

He stared at me blankly as this concept penetrated. It was a frightening situation for him because he realized the fact that this vote on the compact was truly a fight for the future of Montana for all time — in reality, a vote for Montanans instead of the Indians and the federal government.

That, my friends, is the real issue.

Mark Agather is a resident of Kalispell.