Montana’s two U.S. Senators have expressed support of an agreement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on a new framework for a permanent water settlement.

The Montana Water Rights Protection Act is said to permanently eliminate 97 percent of CSKT’s water rights claims throughout the state of Montana, and could save taxpayers over $400 million while protecting the water rights of Montanans.

Daines provided this comment.

“After years of negotiations and hard work, I’m pleased to announce we have reached a new agreement that permanently settles a century old water dispute in Montana and protects the water rights of all Montanans,” Daines said. “The ‘Montana Water Rights Protection Act’ will permanently eliminate almost all of CSKT’s water claim rights across Montana with prejudice, save taxpayers over $400 million, and give all water users across Montana protection and certainty. In a press release from Senator Daines, he also stated that ‘the bill will protect Montanans’ due process by giving them access to state courts over water disputes between tribal and non-tribal members, and there is agreement by CSKT of language that affirms Montanans’ Constitutional protection that the water of the State of Montana belongs to all the people for their common benefit.’

The elimination of 97% of all CSKT’s water rights claims across Montana is with prejudice, meaning they are permanently relinquished.

A statement from Senator Jon Tester was also released.

“Today’s deal is long-overdue good news for Tribes, farmers, ranchers, and Montana taxpayers,” said Tester. “I’m glad we’re all now on the same page about the importance of getting this done, but the clock is ticking on our ability to prevent costly litigation and protect our state’s most valuable resource. It’s critical we get the CSKT Compact introduced and moving so we can provide certainty for all water users and boost economic development in Northwest Montana,” said Tester.

Attorney General Tim Fox also weighed in on the new agreement with a statement while he was on the road in Montana.

‘President Trump’s administration is backing the CSKT water compact and there is bipartisan support from Montana’s congressional delegation, so it’s time to get this done. I am grateful to Senators Daines and Tester for their support of the compact passed by the 2015 Montana Legislature. I call upon Congress to ratify it as soon as possible. I did not support the compact as written in 2013 because it did not provide sufficient protections and certainty for water rights holders,” Fox added. “My staff and I worked with all parties to bring key changes, and as a result, in 2015 the compact passed with bipartisan support.”

The CSKT water compact passed Montana’s legislature after more than 20 years of analysis, input, and negotiations among stakeholders throughout the state.