Tester Statement on Interior Signing CSKT Water Compact

Senator: “Today is a historic day for Montana taxpayers, ranchers, farmers, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.”

Following a five year push to finalize the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CKST) Water Compact, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after Secretary of the Interior Deb Halaand signed a secretarial order certifying the agreement, one of the final steps before the Compact is implemented:

“Today is a historic day for Montana taxpayers, ranchers, farmers, and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes,” Tester said. “Water is life, and the Compact honors our trust responsibilities, creates jobs, and prevents decades of costly litigation while investing in infrastructure and providing certainty to water users everywhere. I am proud to have led the effort to get this Compact signed into law, and I will continue working with the Tribes and water users to hold the government accountable and ensure it is implemented quickly and effectively.”

The CSKT Water Compact will finalize the water rights settlement between CSKT and the State of Montana, resolve CSKT’s water-related claims with the federal government, and avoid costly litigation. 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 in December of 2019. Tester’s historic bipartisan infrastructure legislation, which recently passed the Senate, would fully fund the agreement along with the already passed CSKT Water Settlement.

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.