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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Water compact media blitz raises new questions

by icthe4est
Note: A great letter to the Editor from well respected former legislator Aubyn Curtiss.
To the Editor,
Yes, we know that the Salish/Kootenai tribes are promised $ 1.2 billion if the CSKT Compact is approved & Montana is committed to pony up another $ 55 million. Now we hear that upwards of another million has been added to the mix with the emergence of an intensive media campaign purported to be in the scope of a gubernatorial or presidential campaign—that much in radio contracts alone.
Concerned water users in the Clark Fork Basin, puzzled by the dubious assertions made by the spokesperson for the newly formed group, Farmers and Ranchers for Montana, have had their attention jerked to this even more puzzling development. Who is paying for the radio ad campaign? What special interest can afford the side bar ads on the Internet? They are not cheap.
In an editorial printed here on 1/15 it was indicated that the expressed purpose of the above group is to “educate Montanans about the CSKT. Yet there seems to be no substantive information made available and it seems to be the case with the other promotional ads too. Only glowing statements supporting passage. How can they be so certain when the sponsor of the CSKT bill is still endeavoring this week-end to prepare what he described as a “risk analysis.” This, too, grabs attention when the senator has stated that our county, one of eleven “off-reservation” counties whose water rights could be compromised, is protected.
Montanans do need educating about the 1400 (1500?) page CSKT Compact! We need to learn exactly what Montana stands to gain, other than an ethereal promise of less water litigation. We need to know the cause of these actions hanging over our heads. Are they related to 12,000 actions threatened by the tribes if the CSKT is not passed by the Montana Legislature? Anywhere else that could be perceived as a threat.
We need to know if Montana’s best interest here is the same as the interests of non-tribal water users who have properly filed on water they are putting to beneficial use and depending upon Montana’s Constitution and court system to protect their rights.
We need to know the ramifications of agreeing to a precedent-setting deal—the like of which never before in these United States has given a sovereign tribal nation the right to control distribution of off-reservation water. We know that the U.S. Justice Department will enforce that right, once it is surrendered by Montana, but the big question is who will be defending the rights of John or Jane Doe? Has any thought been given to the number of suits when they discover that their rights have been literally sold down the river? And once other Tribal Nations view the bonanza granted the Salish/Kootenai, what is to prevent them from bringing actions to obtain the same advantage? Endless litigation.
Wake up, Montana, before special interests; Uncle Sam and/or the Salish Kootenai buy enough advertising to convince your legislator to capitulate to their demands. Make no mistake—they want it all. and too many people we have sent to Helena seem willing to help them get it. The U.S. Justice Department has never backed off from representing tribal interests on the reservations—now the Compact opens the door to a whole new playing field. It makes perfect sense for the federal government to ante up 1.2 billion dollars if it can buy them the ability to see that control of water in the entire Clark Fork Basin is placed within their grasp as custodians of tribal interests. Water is today’s gold!

Thanks for opportunity to comment.
Aubyn Curtiss (termed from Senate in 2010)
Twenty-four year veteran of Montana Legislature
House & Senate Judiciary & Natural Resources Committees
Select Water Committee Assignments
Chair, State/Federal Relations Committee

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