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Irrigators concerned over water rights

Published On: Jan 31 2013 04:02:42 PM MST   Updated On: Jan 31 2013 07:59:21 PM MST
Water rights meetings scheduled

The Western Montana Water Users Association has filed litigation against the Flathead Joint Board Of Control, claiming the board is not following Montana code in representing irrigators.  The board recently voted in favor of the compact.  The Association says it is prepared to fight the compact in as high a court as necessary, saying they have federal documents ensuring their water rights.  

Gene Erb is a rancher near Charlo.  He tells NBC Montana, "I would like everybody on the Flathead Indian Reservation to know that they have fee patent land: both tribal and homestead land that had the water appurtenant to the land.  The water was sold with the land."

Steve Tobol farms near Ronan.  "If I am going to lose my farm to this, I am going to go down fighting," says Tobol.   

I talked to the director of the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission, Chris Tweenten and the staff attorney, Jay Weiner.  Both said they will reserve comment on the federal water patent documents the irrigators have uncovered until they are able to look at the papers.   Both also said it is inappropriate to comment on any intentions of the irrigators to take legal action against the compact until specific suits are filed in court.

Tonight, the Western Montana Water Users Association held a townhall meeting at the Brown Building in Arlee.

Three speakers were scheduled to address the audience.  They include hydrologist, Dr. Kate Vandemoer, Flathead Irrigation Project employee and CSKT member, Tim Orr and Montana Water Users Association member, Jerry Laskody.