Tester Makes Case for CSKT Water Compact at Historic Indian Affairs Committee Hearing

Tester: “This moment has been decades in the making” Senator first sponsored bill to approve Compact and ratify water rights in 2016

U.S. Senator Jon Tester continued his years-long push to ratify the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ (CSKT) Water Compact today at a historic Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing on the bill, calling it a moment decades in the making and urging Congress to support the legislation.

Tester first introduced his Salish and Kootenai Water Rights Settlement Act in 2016, and welcomed newfound support for the Compact from his colleagues across the aisle last fall. Today Tester questioned witnesses from the Trump Administration on the President’s support for the bill, and said the Compact would provide certainty for water users and boost economic development in Northwest Montana.

“This moment has been decades in the making,” Tester said in his opening remarks. “It does great things for building infrastructure both inside the reservation and outside, and it does great things for providing surety to towns and water owners across Montana… we need this water settlement for Montana. We need it for predictability, we need it for certainty, we need it to be able to grow our economy. Water is life – that’s how important it is.”

The CSKT Water Compact will ratify the water rights settlement between CSKT and the State of Montana, resolve CSKT’s water-related claims with the federal government, establish resources to update critical water infrastructure, and avoid costly litigation.

Tester has been a steadfast champion for Tribes and Montana water users. As a former Chairman and long-time member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Tester originally sponsored the Blackfeet Water Compact in 2010 and guided it to the President’s desk to be signed into law in 2016. He also sponsored the Crow Water Compact, which was signed into law and ratified in 2010.

Before being implemented, Tribal water rights compacts must pass the state legislature and both chambers of Congress, and be approved by the Tribe and Montana water court. In 2015, after a decade of negotiations between CSKT, the State of Montana, and local landowners, the Montana legislature passed the bipartisan CSKT Water Compact. The Compact is supported by Tribes, landowners, farmers, ranchers, small businesses, sportsmen, and the Montana Legislature.

You can watch Tester’s full hearing Q&A HERE.