Valley Journal
Valley Journal

Irrigation districts need your support

Editor,

You just paid your Lake, Sanders, and Missoula county taxes, and on it was a $3.50 increase on operation and maintenance costs for Flathead Irrigation. In July of 2017, the FJBC unanimously agreed to this increase. In the previous two years, the BIA increase was denied by the FJBC. The three districts denied the increase based on the BIA’s inability to staff the Flathead Irrigation Project and the lack of maintenance done. It takes at least three months for the BIA to work through staff hiring.

The project was and is five to seven employees short of a full staff. The Mission and Flathead districts as well as Camas are short five ditch riders in 2018. The point is that you are paying these five to seven employees. Where is this excess money? Remember when the Flathead Project was ran by the irrigators? Staff was hired in timely fashion.

This spring, the BIA approached the FJBC and districts to announce a $4 increase for 2019. In July, the three districts will address this issue. I can tell you that the Mission and Jocko Districts will reject this request. Only the three irrigation districts have the ability from the state and county to access irrigation water costs.

One more point you have to consider: in the hotly contested Confederated Salish and Kootenai Water Compact, the three districts lose the ability to access the Flathead Irrigation Project water cost. It will be done by the five member political board appointed by the governor and CSKT. If the irrigators lose their ability to assess project O&M costs, the costs will continue to rise beyond control.

Right now, the districts are working on water rights and issue remarks for Montana Water Court, due in July. These were filed by the USA in counties from 1910 to 1915 and to the Montana DNRC in 1982 by the districts and FJBC. The three district could use your support on these issues.

Tim Orr
St. Ignatius

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