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CSKT Water Rights Compact

The State of Montana, Federal Government, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) have negotiated off-reservation water rights covering aboriginal territories of CSKT. The negotiations were concerned with quantifying aboriginal rights to instream flows throughout western Montana, including those of the Upper Clark Fork, Blackfoot, and Flathead Rivers, as well as their tributaries. Negotiations were also concerned with quantifying the CSKT reserved right to consumptive water use based upon the 1908 Winters ruling of the United States Supreme Court.  

Without the compact, developers are facing the possibility of more restrictive water policy as it relates to subdivision projects, which could impair both scale and profitability of future development projects. Water rights holders could be subject to a rights call, essentially shutting off access to water when users may need access most. The compact addresses these concerns to a great extent, and is a viable alternative to costly and protracted litigation between the parties to adjudicate water rights.  

The Chamber took a position of support for legislation that will ratify the CSKT Compact at the state level.  With the strong support of Missoula business, the compact was passed by the 2015 state legislature with broad bipartisan support.  The compact must next be ratified by Congress.  The Chamber continues to work to get the compact over the finish line.

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