CSKT Water Compact Bill Clears First Hurdle in U.S. SenateNews Type: State, Federal Source: Montana Free Press
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A Montana water rights bill that would end a years-long debate was passed by a congressional committee today, the next step in ensuring irrigators and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes can avoid lengthy and costly adjudication of irrigation rights.
Members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee passed the Montana Water Rights Protection Act on Wednesday afternoon, the first action federal lawmakers have taken on the bill since it was introduced by Montana Sen. Steve Daines in December. Sen. Jon Tester co-sponsored the bill.
The bill would resolve a century-old water rights dispute and allocate $1.9 billion to settle federal damage claims and to rehabilitate the deteriorating Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. In exchange for the tribes’ agreement to relinquish claims to off-reservation water rights, the bill would return control of the National Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation to the tribes.