Baucus, Tester applaud irrigation agreement

Montana’s Senators Says Consensus is Commendable and Historic

(Washington D.C.)- Montana’s Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester today applauded an irrigation system agreement that will ensure the people living on the Flathead Indian Reservation have access to the water services they need.

The Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes and the Flathead Joint Board of Control today signed the long negotiated agreement on the future management and operation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA) Flathead Indian Irrigation Project. The BIA will transfer the authority to manage and operate the project to an entity called the Cooperative Management Entity (CME).

“This is an historic occasion, the first of its kind, and I am very pleased today to see this project and negotiations reach fruition after so many years of disputes,” Baucus said. “It shows how two entities can resolve their differences for the benefit of all.”

“This goes to show good things happen when Montanans work together—especially when it comes to managing our water resources,” said Tester, a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  “This agreement provides valuable opportunities to folks in Montana, and I look forward to continue working with the folks in the Flathead as this deal moves forward.”

Baucus has been involved in negotiations with these groups since 2003. After reaching a deal that established mutual ownership of the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project in 2003, the groups have been unable to come to an agreement over the management of the project, which is currently operated by the BIA.  Thanks in large part to mediation from Baucus, an agreement was reached in 2009 and the Department of the Interior has now finished its review and approval of the proposal.

The agreement states that both entities will jointly operate the Flathead Agency Irrigation Division under the CME, made up of an equal number of representatives from both groups with the BIA providing oversight functions and maintaining its role as trustee.

“I am proud of our Montanans in reaching this agreement and I look forward to assisting in any manner asked as I have in the past” Baucus said. “Congratulations to all the parties.”