Archive for December 2nd, 2008

by jhwygirl

And they say the economy is slowing down?

Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioner’s meeting will hear a new 129-lot subdivision for Frenchtown, on 275 acres owned by the Deschamps Family Corporation.

While the BCC’s agenda give us all this [/snark] information, an even further search into the bowels of the county website turns up the Planning Board agenda from October 21 which tells us a little bit more information including the owner of the property and more specifically the area where this proposed subdivision is located. 275 acres is pretty hard to miss.

I did try and get to the minutes of the meeting to try and find out more, but that link wasn’t working. (note: It did work the next day, after I got an email notification from OPG)

When I go to the Montana cadastral I see that about half the site is pretty steep – so is there clustering of those 129 lots down on the flatter area? Most of the surrounding lots are 10 acres in size. Bet the neighbors love that.

I’m sure it’s all in the name of affordable housing, too. ‘Cause you know approving all those lots like that has worked so well in the past.

Bet their all going to be on exempt 35 gpm wells, too.

That’s an awful lot of work to find out so little, isn’t it?

Sure would be nice to be able to get to a staff report – I mean, considering that the city is able to provide us citizens with so much information just by providing links (and it is 2008, I mean), you’d think that the county and the BCC would want to provide the taxpayers with open government? Right?

Or maybe I’m wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But hey – maybe those staff reports are being typed by a secretarial pool and delivered by horse and buggy over the the BCC office..and then delivered by another horse and buggy over to the Consolidated Planning Board members. There simply aren’t using computers for county subdivisions and other stuff.

Yeah, that’s it.

Because otherwise, what would be a plausible excuse for providing Missoula County residents with easily accessible information to public hearing materials?

Myself, I can’t seem to justify this lack of information. Somebody knows how to do links. They put the darn weekly agenda in as a link – notice that little link there? “Agenda”? Over there on Wednesday’s schedule?

Missoula County taxpayer dollars at work. Or not. Because putting in a link to staff reports takes so much time and effort.

by jhwygirl

It’s not like I’ve not written about my disdain for the state’s exempt-from-review 35 gallon per minute (gpm) well exemption. (Look here, here, and here).

In a nutshell, this exemption from review for 35 gpm wells ignores senior property rights. Senior water rights.

If you think Montana is an agricultural state, don’t fool yourself. This clear act of ignoring senior water rights holders – even in closed basins – illustrates Montana’s commitment to agricultural water rights holders.

Clearly, we’re more committed to clearing the path for subdividers and developers – at the expense of agriculture.

Beyond the fact that while the state owns the water in the state, and under that authority issues water rights “permits”, they continue to refuse to acknowledge the interconnectivity of surface rights and subsurface rights. The Smith River case, unfortunately, did not set any statewide precedence in that regards. Further – while the state is issuing permits to use the state’s water, there is little to no proactive enforcement that monitors for overuse of water rights.

That lack of an real enforcement leads to come situations that lead to serious (depending on your priorities, I guess) repercussions. Let’s take the Big Hole River, summer 2006: That very hot summer, water levels dropped so low that the artic grayling, an endangered species, was nearly lost. The Big Hole is one of the only natural habitats for that species. Naturally, FWP looked to work with irrigators (the major users) to voluntarily reduce their water usage (for cattle and crops) so as to keep minimal flow levels in the waterway. But consider that situation when all around those irrigators subdivisions and new homes are popping up like weeds – all with exempt wells?

And that is the environment that state fishery biologists had to work with.

Up in the upper Blackfoot, irrigators and other property owners have come together in an amazing partnership, working to preserve the waterways and fisheries of the Blackfoot and its tributaries. There are fisheries that have actually been restored due to this work, led by Jim Stone and the members of the Blackfoot Challenge.

So when I read a story like this, from today’s Missoulian, which focuses on the grant being obtained by a local community well, I’m focused on why that well keeps dropping.

In the story, the author tells us that the well was originally drilled in 1979 – and that 11 years later the pump had to be dropped another 63 feet – and that 10 years later (2000) it had to be dropped another 77 feet. Apparently – exhibited by the need for a state loan – it is needing to be dropped again. And while the problem is put forth as the 11 users who have “continued to increase water use,” I’m wondering how many subdivisions and new water users have popped up around the Lorraine South Water District users – how many 35 gpm wells have been plopped into the ground, hell-be-damned to the water right that the Lorraine South Water District people have?

And, while they keep dropping this well’s pump, is anyone monitoring the water usage of the Lorraine South Water District as it fairs against the actual amount of water it has a right to use?

Look. Water is a huge issue in the west. Montanans should not be running around thinking “it’s not gonna happen here” as is typically human nature. And if I held a senior water right, I’d damn sure be contacting every legislator – republican and democrat – and my neighbors and everyone else that would listen and I’d be telling them that we (Montana) needs to get a handle on this sooner than later.

Because closed basins, which indicate overallocated water rights, should never happen.

And the Big Hole River, that I mentioned above? It is the only river that has yet to be ajudicated. So it may already be overallocated and yet still there are wells being drilled down there – exempt 35 gpm wells.

Much the same as the Bitterroot – which is a closed basin, yet subdivisions are cropping up there too, like weeds, and each new lot is drilling its own exempt well.

Same with the Upper Clark Fork basin – closed.

As is the Teton basin, the Madison/Jefferson basin, and the Upper Missouri basin.

Nice, huh?

But hey – let’s drill away, dropping water tables and farming subdivision lots…making it harder and harder for senior irrigators to get the water that they need. And when those vistas of hayfields and cattle and alfalfa and sugar beets are gone, I guess we call all talk about the good old days.

But want to think that Montana is going to stay Montana without its water? Well, that’s just crazy talk, it is. Don’t fool yourself.

by jhwygirl

…And tell them to Get Out There and Vote.

Today is the runoff election between Jim Kern Martin and Swiftboatin’ Saxby Chambliss.

Democrats could pick up another badly needed seat today in the Senate by electing Martin.

And before you think your call won’t matter, consider that the Secretary of State expects only a 15% turnout.

yeah folks, and I’m guessing Coobs already saw this, in my coffee-deficient haze on my drive to the local java joint, I realized that Al Franken is ahead in Minnesota on his recount, and it was Jim Martin that was running against Chambliss. Yet another case of bad coffee-deficient blogging. Will I ever learn?

And thanks Pete…I saw you were in there trying to save me.

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