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Proposed irrigation water use agreement released

Negotiators for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the Flathead Joint Board of Control, and the United States have developed a proposed Flathead Indian Irrigation Project Water Use Agreement for consideration by the organizations they represent.

The FIIP Water Use Agreement is a critical piece of a larger water rights settlement; it addresses the exercise and administration of both the FIIP water rights and the CSKT instream flow rights for streams supplying the FIIP.

The proposed agreement would:

• Protect existing water uses on the FIIP.

• Address the concerns of owners of extra-duty lands.

• Protect property rights.

• Improve FIIP operations and facilities.

• Provide additional pumping for FIIP and expand access to low-cost electricity for the pumping.

• Improve instream flows.

FJBC Chairman Walt Schock said, “Negotiations on the FIIP Water Use Agreement have been detailed and demanding. The parties recently concluded what we believe is a good agreement that protects the legitimate interests of all those involved. The FJBC’s concern has been to protect all irrigators, and we now think that the agreement does not only that, but will provide numerous benefits to the entire community.”

“The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have been at the negotiation table regarding water rights for years. It’s remarkable that we stand so close to reaching the final agreement to get the water compact introduced and moved through the state legislature. 

“For the good of the community, we will get this agreement completed,” said CSKT Tribal Chairman Joe Durglo.

The FJBC board will conduct a vote by its membership on the proposed agreement. FJBC meetings are scheduled on Monday, Feb. 4, at the Arlee Community Center at 1 p.m. and the St. Ignatius Senior Center at 6 p.m.; and on Tuesday, Feb. 5, in Hot Springs at the Lone Pine Hall at 1 p.m. and in Ronan at 6 p.m. (location to be determined).

Copies of the proposed agreement are available at the FJBC office at (406) 745-2090 and the following websites: http://www.dnrc.mt.gov/rwrcc/Compacts/CSKT/Default.asp (Montana) and http://www.cskt.org/tr/nrd_waternegotiations.htm (CSKT).

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