DNRC letters to claimants are standard step in Water Court’s claim examination process
HELENA, Mont. – Notification letters sent recently to Flathead-area water right owners from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s (DNRC) Water Adjudication Bureau are part of the agency’s ongoing claims examination process.
Kathy Olsen, manager of DNRC’s Kalispell Regional Water Office, said the Department has been directed by the Montana Water Court to examine water right claims in Flathead River Basins 76L and 76LJ. The process is not connected in any way with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Water Compact or with the proposed Montana Artesian water bottling operation.
Olsen said her office has been inundated with calls and walk-in traffic by residents who aren’t sure what the letters are for, and why they are required to respond.
“The letters are simply part of our standard review of pre-July 1, 1973, state-based water right claims in basins 76L and 76LJ,” Olsen said. “These are the final two basins to receive this review as part of the claims examination process started in the 1980s. They have nothing to do with the CSKT compact, and nothing to do with Montana Artesian.”
Olsen said some residents of the Flathead Indian Reservation have also inquired whether the letters are connected to water in the Flathead Irrigation Project.
“The letters are tied to state-based water rights, and do not have any connection with water contracts from the irrigation project,” Olsen said.
As part of the normal procedure for examining water right claims, DNRC plans to issue a summary report for the two basins at the direction of the Montana Water Court. A summary report is a draft decree for review by the Court. The 30-day timeline given in the letters for response simply alerts DNRC staff to any claimants who wish to address issue remarks on their water right claims, or make corrections to their claims through the amendment process. Claimants will have additional time after the 30-day period to work with DNRC and the Water Court on issue remarks and amendments.
Claimants with issues or concerns are encouraged to contact the DNRC water resource specialist identified at the end of the letter for more detailed assistance regarding their individual water claim filings.
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