Posted: Jul 23, 2012 12:14 PM by Dennis Bragg - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 24, 2012 10:04 AM
ST. IGNATIUS- The committee working to hammer out a complex agreement to manage water in the Flathead Basin is giving individuals and groups more time to comment on the plan for the second time.
Federal agencies, the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes are attempting to work out a water compact setting up a framework for managing water resources in the Flathead. The pact would comply with court rulings and the 1855 Hellgate Treaty.
The compact is the last to be resolved with Montana's tribes and is also proving to be the most complicated, given the nature of land ownership in the Flathead.
The Flathead Joint Board of Control has worked out a draft stipulation agreement which is circulating for public review, and that's generating a lot of concern from water users. Farmers and ranchers worry the proposals are too "vague" and could bring drastic changes in how water is allocated.
Tribal leaders have said they're merely complying with court directions and working with the system to preserve cultural and wildlife resources.
Commissioner Chair Walt Schock has announced the public comment period on the draft agreement is being extended again to August 2nd.
Schock says the panel intends to hold a public meeting to review the agreement and the negotiations August 20th in Ronan. That meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the Ronan Performing Arts Center and Schock says the committee will present a "revised draft" to the public.
Following that meeting the Joint Board will schedule a meeting to act on the draft agreement. The plan needs to be approved by the tribe, the Montana Legislature and Congress before it could take effect.
Written comments on the plan can be sent to: Flathead Joint Board of Control, P.O. Box 639, St. Ignatius, MT 59865. They can also be faxed to (406) 745.3090 or emailed to email@example.com.