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Valley Views for June 30, 2021

Letter asks irrigators two questions

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To the Mission and Jocko irrigators: this spring, water users were sent a note about the history of homesteading the Mission, Jocko, Camas Valleys, which is also a historic record about the Mission, Jocko, and Flathead irrigation districts involvement in securing liens on land that formed the districts and guided the Flathead Irrigation Project building project. Irrigators also provided cheap labor to build the project. Two questions were asked at the bottom of the letter.

One fact needs to be brought out: without the entry men, this irrigation project would not have been built. The United States needed and wanted monetary security to fund Flathead Irrigation, which is why the first lien is still attached to your property. 

Tribal members had their liens forgiven in 1916, and when any tribal land was sold to entry men after, the liens were reattached and remain today. There simply were not enough tribal farmers to build this irrigation project. The laws of 1884, 1904, 1905, and 1908 made the Flathead Reservation an open reservation, no other like it in the State of Montana.

The first question asked in the letter was, “Do agree or not agree to surrender Flathead Irrigation assets and control to the CSK Tribe?” And 80 percent of you said “do not agree to surrender.”

The second question asked was, “Do you agree or not agree to an entity like the former CME with a majority CSK Tribal control?” Again, 80 percent of you said “do not agree to such an entity.” 

One reason these questions are so important is that 90 percent of Flathead Irrigation Project land is in fee status, non-tribal ownership. About 117,000 of the 127,000 project acres are fee. The 1908 act of U.S. Congress guaranteed irrigator operation and maintenance of Flathead irrigation.

Daines and Tester’s Senate Bill 3019 is different than Senate Bill 262 that was improperly passed in Montana Legislature. Daines and Tester, the Department of Interior, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe know it is different. What does the Bison Range and 34,000 acres of state land have to do with water rights? The Mission and Jocko district’s goal is to get land owners and irrigators some relief from the operation and maintenance fees.


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