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Champ Edmonds Comments on Fate of Water Compact, Failed Blast Motion

water rights
Photo courtesy of michele annelouise cohen/Flickr

On Wednesday, April 3, Democrat Representative Kathleen Williams of Bozeman attempted to blast a recently tabled water rights compact out of committee and onto the House floor.

The blast failed, but 13 Republican representatives voted for it, including Champ Edmonds of Missoula. Edmonds said he was persuaded to vote for the blast motion by William’s assertion that the Supreme Court had made a new ruling, which pertained to the compact.

“I voted for the blast motion because I thought their was new information that had not yet been heard regarding a Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the compact,” said Edmonds who said he has never supported the compact, but voted for the blast to hear more about the compacts constitutionality. “I think that was just sort of a curve ball and I fell for it, and yeah, I regret falling for it.”

The decision was not made by the U.S. Supreme Court, but by the Montana Supreme Court, which Edmonds believes rushed a ruling for political reasons.

“When they bring up a ruling right in the middle of a blast motion on the same day and, it’s my understanding that these rulings take a lot longer than this ruling took, that indicates to  me that it is very political in nature,” said Edmonds. “Unfortunately, for years now the Montana Supreme court always has had a very political bent to it.”

After the incident, Edmonds says he will not vote for another blast motion and says one is unlikely to succeed.

As to the future of the compact, Edmonds says hat conversations with the current water rights commissioner Chris Tweeten has led him to believe that nothing will change if the same commission is given another two years to form a compact.

“I’m on the appropriations committee and I asked him, on the record, what was going to change, what are they going to do different in the next two years that they haven’t done in the last 20 or 30 years,” said Edmonds, speaking of his conversation with Tweeten. “He said, and I quote, ‘nothing.’”

The commission has been attempting to form a water compact between the state and the confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes since 1979. The actual documents written by the commission are available and open to the public.

Champ Edmonds:

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