Although Dan and Farris Wilks have lost three times in court in an attempt to unseat the senior water right on Flatwillow Creek, the Texas-based landowners have another tactic to ensure their NBar Ranch receives water.
Wilks Ranch Montana Ltd has applied with the state to divert water from Durfee Creek from Nov. 1 through June 30 at a flow rate of 4 cubic feet per second, and a volume up to 151.4 acre-feet, and store the water in an off-stream reservoir, according to an application filed with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The reservoir has a capacity of 114 acre feet of water. An acre foot is the amount of water it takes to cover one acre in one foot of water.
“After the water is stored, it is proposed to be released or pumped from the reservoir and used for irrigation purposes during the period April 15 to Oct. 15,” according to the application.
Durfee Creek is a tributary to Flatwillow Creek in Fergus County.
Because Flatwillow Creek is considered by the state to be chronically de-watered, and because of other existing water rights along the stream, DNRC “has proposed to place conditions and limits on the issuance of the Permit that would restrict the periods when water could be appropriated (including the period of appropriation and minimum stream flow conditions), so that other water users and instream flows would not be negatively impacted.”
Wilks Ranch was also proposing to divert three springs — about 50 acre feet of water — on Hackshaw Creek in Fergus County but the proposal was withdrawn. According to the DNRC’s 2018 environmental assessment, “No significant impacts to adjacent surface water flows are anticipated” despite the “depletions” of 115 gallons per minute from Flatwillow Creek because the “diversion works are already in place.
“The project is generally located about 16 miles southwest of Grass Range.”