This week the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs cast a unanimous, bipartisan vote to pass the Montana Water Rights Protection Act introduced by Senator Daines, and co-sponsored by Senator Tester.

Montana House District 63 Representative Zach Brown provided details of the agreement.

“It both ratifies the negotiated water rights compact  that was originally passed by the state in 2015, and that came after many decades of negotiation,” said Brown. “If finally ratified by Congress the CSKT water compact will settle the legal claims of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and define their federally reserved water rights.”

I feel it's worth saying as a white Montanan, I feel that the tribe was quite generous to the people of Montana, and gave away a lot.

Brown said the ratification of the compact will have a large economic impact on the entire state of Montana.

“The folks who are working on this estimate that the bill as it exists in Congress will create over 6,000 jobs and that is in large part by investing in water infrastructure systems across Montana,” he said. “I believe the price tag is over a billion dollars. It’s quite a large package and it’ll bring economic activity to Montana, and it will help irrigators both on and off the CSKT reservation and ultimately, it will provide certainty for Montana’s farmers and ranchers.”

Brown provided a personal insight into what he feels is the importance of the compact’s eventual passage.

“I feel its worth saying as a white Montanan, I feel that the tribe was quite generous to the people of Montana, and gave away a lot” he said. “That’s the nature of compromise in that both parties have to have some skin in the game, they have to give and take, and I think that’s really what this bill represents. As a result it has bipartisan support and a coalition of folks behind it from agriculture to cities and towns to conservation interests and everything in between. It’s really a collaborative, bipartisan effort and I’m certainly proud to have played a small part in supporting it.”