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Writ stops FJBC vote on water use agreement

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Retired attorney Lloyd Ingraham, Ronan, surprised the Flathead Joint Board of Control on April 16 with a writ signed by District 20 Judge C.B. McNeil preventing the FJBC from voting on whether to adopt or reject the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project water use agreement.

About 50 people crowded the Flathead Joint Board of Control Office Building in St. Ignatius for a special meeting of the FJBC. 

Two items were on the agenda, a personnel issue, requiring executive session, and whether to adopt or reject the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project water use agreement.

Board Chair Walter Schock cleared the room for the executive session. Approximately half an hour later, the board announced that they would not be voting on the FIIP water use agreement and allowed meeting attendees to gather personal items left in the boardroom. 

Some members of the Western Montana Water Users came with signs and were picketing the office, supporting Ingraham and his writ. 

The writ was in answer to a suit filed by Ingraham against the Flathead Joint Board of Control. 

A court copy of the writ said Ingraham had reviewed the FIIP agreement and that a number of areas of the proposed water agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the United States did not comply with the law. 

Ingraham’s affidavit also stated he owns fee land with appurtenant water to irrigate. It said his fee land would “have less or little value” under the compact. 

Also, if the FIIP agreement was approved, he “would forever lose all or a portion of the appurtenant water and be forced to submit and have fee land submit to jurisdiction of a tribal entity and joint local government.”

Some options open to the FJBC are to not do anything or to reconvene a meeting and approve the agreement contingent upon resolution of litigation or legal issues. 

The next regularly scheduled meeting will be on May 13 at 11 a.m. at the St. Ignatius office. 

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