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Irrigation Operations and Maintenance increase a necessary hardship

Editor,

Flathead district irrigators held a meeting on July 23 to discuss BIA’s O&M Increase and FID FY 2018- 19 budgets. (Posted at courthouse).

It would be nice to think that the FID irrigators have complete trust in their elected commissioners, or is it possible the FID irrigators were unaware those charges were posted on Aug. 11, 2017 with the $3 increase for 2018, stating the remainder $4.50 increase would happen in 2019.

Google Federal Register, click on home site, then type in Flathead Irrigation Project. Rate adjustments for Flathead Indian Irrigation 2017 and 2018 will come up.

Here are some facts for you to check:

1. BIA owns or has interest in irrigation projects on various Indian reservations. They are required to establish irrigation assessment rates to recover the cost to administer, operate, maintain and rehabilitate these projects.

2. As owner of the FIIP, it is BIA’s responsibility to ensure adequate resources are made available to meet requirements above.

3. BIA’s authority to assess rates dates back to the Act of May 29, 1908.

4. The repayment contracts between irrigation districts and Interior capture irrigators’ obligation to pay assessments as well as the irrigation districts’ authority to collect such assessments for payment to the U.S. The authority to assess rates however, rest solely with Interior and has not been delegated to irrigation districts.

5. Costs associated with operating and maintaining the FIIP have historically exceeded the amount paid through assessments. Even during time frame of CME management of FIIP.

6. Historically, BIA tempered irrigation rate increases to demonstrate sensitivity to the economic impact on water users. That practice resulted in a rate deficiency at some irrigation projects and BIA does not have discretionary funds to subsidize irrigation projects. Therefore funding to operate and maintain these projects need to come from the revenues of water users served.

Yes I think the increase will be a hardship for the irrigators, I however do not think BIA sets the increase to make it difficult for those that make a living off project water. If increased assessments are not in place, the irrigation project could eventually fail and how difficult would that be to make a living off your land?

Janette Rosman
FID commissioner division 2
Charlo

 

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