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Irrigation commissioner doesn’t agree with fee increase

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I don’t normally respond to editorial letters, but today I will. I send letters to educate and update Flathead Irrigation Project irrigators. Everything I write is based on fact and local history. This valley was settled by courageous men and women not bowing to threats and standing firm on property rights bought and paid for with their sweat and blood.

A few weeks ago the Flathead Irrigation District agreed on $33.50 an acre for operation and maintenance costs associated with the irrigation project. They paid the first half installment of $16.50. This must mean they agree on the $4.50 increase. Two years ago, the Flathead District commissioners pushed for a $3 increase from $26.00 an acre.

In August of 2018, the three districts assessed the three county treasures’ at $29.00 and refused the $4.50 increase. The Flathead paid by reserves. Mission and Jocko paid the first half installment of the assessed $29 fee, and we asked for a stay on the $4.50 increase and an audit on Flathead irrigation project. Why should we give the Bureau of Indian Affairs $544,500 more without seeing an audit this time? The BIA cannot withhold water until June or July. If they could, they have money to operate on. Costs are low right now with all but six employees furloughed for the winter. The Flathead District also supports the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Water Compact, so they support giving water rights to the tribe? The people who built our great valleys are rolling in their graves at this because it means they are giving up their rights.

As far as the operation of Flathead Irrigation Project, the three districts signed contracts with Congress and the Interior Department in 1948 and 1951, not the tribe. The contract states that the landowners will operate and maintain FIP, not the tribe.

Tim Orr
Mission District Commissioner
St. Ignatius


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