POLSON — The push for an alternative to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ water compact continued here Tuesday night.
The Last Chance Patriots group hosted a discussion on the “People’s Compact,” a proposed replacement agreement that’s emerged over the past month. About 70 guests gathered in the conference center at Polson’s Red Lion Inn for a presentation by the agreement’s backers, several of them state lawmakers.
The draft of the People’s Compact legislation remains under legal review. But the Polson presentation, like earlier meetings and promotional materials, cast this new compact as a less-costly version of the existing one that leaves several of its most controversial aspects behind.
“This is something that is better,” said state Rep. Carl Glimm, R-Kila. “It's a better thing, and I think we're going to find the more people learn about it, the more they study it, the more they're going to like this.”
Glimm was joined onstage by several colleagues from the Montana Legislature: Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell; Rep. Mark Noland, R-Bigfork, and Sen. Mark Blasdel, R-Kalispell, were all there to voice their support for the compact.
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Their role, Olszewski said, was to bring the People’s Compact to Congress as a petition for redress of grievances, as provided for by the First Amendment. “This is a petition of a local people that has been brought to us to bring up to the federal government for redress,” he said. “It is the proper channel to take this directly to Congress.”
The compact that passed the Montana Legislature in 2015, after years of negotiation and debate, now awaits federal and tribal ratification. Experts in Montana water law believe that any new or modified compact would need the approval of all three signing parties: the state, tribes and federal government.
But for now, the focus is on Congress, said Terry Backs with Concerned Citizens of Western Montana, a group that has long opposed the negotiated compact.
“We're not really interested at this point in the process, as far as what happens after the People's Compact goes to D.C.,” she said. “The main process we're concerned about is getting it there at this point in time. … The government's going to figure out after, from that point forward, but right now our goal is to get it up there as a petition so that it's up there in stark contrast to the CSKT Compact.”