A long-awaited draft agreement over water rights between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the State of Montana and the United States of America was released on Thursday.

The Montana legislature will be poring over the draft agreement over the next three months in hopes that the compact will be passed, which would forestall expensive and protracted court fights over the precious resource promised to the tribes in the original Hellgate Treaty of 1855.

Staff attorney for the Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Melissa Ann Hornbein said on Thursday that the settlement agreement is composed of two parts.

"The first is the compact itself, which is the document that quantifies all of the tribe's reserved water rights within the state of Montana both on and off the reservation," Hornbein said. "The second part is called the Unitary Administration and Management Ordinance, or the Law of Administration, a set of statutory provisions modeled after the existing Montana Water Use Act.

The complete text of the draft agreement is attached to this story, in addition to a shorter summary document.

It is hoped that the agreement will allow non-tribal members,farmers and ranchers, businesses and industries in the area to retain the use of water many have used for generations, in addition to solidifying and quantifying the tribes' water rights.

The Montana Reserved Water Rights Commission will hold public meetings to explain the Compact and seek public comment on January 9, 2015 - Ronan Performing Arts Center -35885 Round Butte Road,Ronan,MT; at 4 pm -Public meeting with technical staff for on-Reservation irrigators; at 7 pm - Public meeting with the MT-RWRCC on Revised Compact

January 10, 2015 – at 9 am at Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell - 1840 Highway 93 South -Kalispell MT.

January 12, 2015 – at 7 pm at the Great Northern Hotel - 835 Great Northern Blvd., Helena MT. The Montana Reserved Water Rights Commission will take public comment, and consider approval of the Revised Compact.