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Water compact

The Last Chance Patriots group hosted a discussion on the “People’s Compact,” a proposed replacement agreement for Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact, in Polson in November 2018.

Thanks to former Montana state Sen. Nels Swandal (guest column, March 4) for revealing the true goal of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact: federal control over the water of the entire state of Montana. Swandal, like many who voted for the CSKT compact, improperly projects the problems of that compact onto the People’s Compact/Mending Fences Act.

Upon examination of Swandal’s water rights, and the claims of the CSKT and United States in eastern Montana, we find that the CSKT/United States have filed time immemorial water claims on nearly all the streams and rivers that run through Swandal’s ranch in Park County. Swandal has very old water rights, but they will never beat a "time immemorial" priority date. So, who has control over Swandal’s water rights? Why, the federal government!

The tribes’ and United States’ overreaching claims for water across the state will never be dismissed with finality. In fact, the CSKT compact itself says that the claims will be dismissed without prejudice! The People’s Compact, on the other hand, requires the dismissal of all these off-reservation claims because there is no basis in the law or Treaty of Hellgate for them.

Did Swandal understand the CSKT compact when he voted for it? We don’t think so. He proves through his column that he did not read or understand it. He took the easy way out, and now look what has happened to his own water rights, and the water rights of nearly everyone in eastern Montana.

Read about the People’s Compact/Mending Fences act here:

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Catherine Vandemoer of Kalispell is a water resource consultant and chair of the Montana Land and Water Alliance. She can be contacted through

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