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.