Big Week for Montana Water

by jhwygirl

The joint interim Water Policy Committee meets this Wednesday and Thursday to discuss water issues. Day one is pretty much water permitting and exempt wells, while Thursday will encompass coalbed methane (CBM) and its water-related issues.

You can listen or watch the sessions live by streaming from links on the legislative main page or watching it on local cable (channel 67 here in Missoula).

Some of you may recall that Governor Schweitzer had the good sense, this past session, to veto HB575, which would have given free reign for CBM developers to drain the aquifer and be limited to a minimal amount of liability to the ranchers they affect.

All very interesting stuff…and most interesting will be the discussion regarding exempt wells. Just last month, 5 senior water rights holders (including the Clark Fork Coalition) filed a formal request to the DNRC for new rules regarding exempt wells. Their request centers on the belief that failure to provide any review of exempt wells is ignoring and endangering senior water rights.

I mean – come on…..this state is allowing exempt wells in closed basins. How, pray tell, will they shut off all those exempt wells should a senior water right holder call for water?

Imagine the public health and safety issues.

It’s not clear what is to become of that formal request. Per state law, the state has 60 days to respond and either initiate the requested rule-making or explain why they don’t feel it’s necessary. Some might view it as the water rights holders having served notice: Get it done or we’ll see what the courts have to say.

Button Valley, of course, does a nice rundown on exempt wells and some of the issues that the Water Policy Committee will be looking at.

Montanan’s are lucky to have two water quality superstar advocates on the committee – Missoula’s Senator David Wanzenried and Bozeman’s Representative J.P. Pomnichowski. Both have worked tirelessly on water quality and quantity issues – and it’s good to see their institutional knowledge being continued in such an important committee for such an important issue.

Both are up for re-election, too…just in case you’re wondering where to h$lp on on a worthy legislator’s re-election.

Remember: What is Montana without its water?

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