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Judge invalidates Flathead irrigation board - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Judge invalidates Flathead irrigation board

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POLSON - A Lake County judge is ordering the Flathead Joint Board of Control to disband, saying the board which had controlled irrigation in the Mission Valley is no longer a legal entity.

The FJBC has been the scene of turmoil, lawsuits and controversy the past several years while final work was being done on the proposed Flathead Water Compact.

The panel was originally formed in 1981 to combine the efforts of local irrigation districts in the Flathead, Mission and Jocko Irrigation Districts to manage water from the Flathead River system. But fighting erupted as the board was attempting to deal with the proposed Water Compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The board fractured, but then was reformed after a controversial vote in 2013. Since the formal re-organization in May 2014, the FJBC has spent upwards of a million dollars on legal fees fighting adoption of the Compact.

Now, Lake County District Court Judge James Manley has ruled in favor of Mission Valley Irrigators United, saying the FJBC didn't follow Montana law when it restarted and has been operating illegally.

In effect, that turns control of the water systems back over to the three individual irrigation districts.

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