In a press release last week the Department of the Interior announced the release of nearly $580 million to continue fulfilling settlements of Indian water rights claims. The largest portion – over 25% – was awarded to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which will receive $156,937,000 to fund the Montana Water Rights Protection act.

“Our elders continually remind us to protect our water and the fulfillment of these obligations will help protect the water for all generations to come,” said CSKT Tribal Council Chairman Tom McDonald. “Passage of this Compact comes after work that stretches back 40 years.”

Fulfilling the CSKT Water Rights settlement was championed by Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester, and was signed into law by former President Trump. In a statement, Tester expressed his support for the compact.

“As a third-generation farmer, I know how important it is for all of our local communities to have access to clean water,” he said. “I will continue working with the local communities, Tribes and water users to hold the government accountable and ensure the settlement is implemented effectively.”

According to Robert McDonald, CSKT Compact Implementation Officer, funding from the compact settlement has already been channeled toward projects that benefit fisheries and wildlife resources and improve Flathead Indian Irrigation Project infrastructure, operation and maintenance. Funding has also been used to help support the Flathead Reservation Water Management Board, a cost that is shared with the State of Montana.

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