Daines-Tester bill deserves support
The Jan. 22 Valley Journal included a story entitled “Olszewski and Republican cohort ask Daines to withdraw CSKT compact bill.” The bill in question was introduced in December by senators Daines and Tester to “finalize a long-negotiated water compact between Montana, the federal government, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.”
The bill would allocate $1.9 billion to settle CSKT claims based on damages caused by the irrigation project that was built almost a century ago over tribal opposition.
But local opponents of the compact have questioned, among other provisions, the $1.9 billion. Based on President Trump’s intensive internal review process as required by law, the Trump administration decided to support the compact and the proposed legislation.
In accord with the negotiated compact, most of the $1.9 billion settlement must be spent on rehabilitating and modernizing the irrigation project and that is one reason why I and many other farmers and ranchers have supported the compact. We know firsthand the irrigation project’s major problems and vulnerabilities. We also know that if the compact is not approved and Montana’s Water Court takes over, there will be no money to rehabilitate the irrigation project.
But it is not just farmers and ranchers who will benefit; for example, the $1.9 billion will help rehabilitate clogged and leaky irrigation facilities that create problems for Polson residents. In addition, if the $1.9 billion is ultimately appropriated by the US Congress, money will be available to help rebuild Polson’s ancient and overloaded sewer system.
I was astounded to read in the Valley Journal report the following statement attributed to County Commissioner Gale Decker: “Decker also said he’s concerned that jobs created by compact spending would bring new people and crime to Lake County. We’re worried about our law enforcement, our drug trafficking, our human trafficking.” That is an amazing statement from Commissioner Decker who last year ran on a platform that emphasized the need for growth in Lake County.