Archive for March 17th, 2010

by jhwygirl

I had the fabulous luck to have the time to head out to the very gracious and welcoming cities of Butte and Anaconda (in that order) for the St. Patty’s Day parades that could not have fallen on a more gorgeous March afternoon. I’d say there was quite a number of people – both adults and children – off playing hooky today (if only for an extra long lunch). Check out these Butte beauties and their proud father:

Who could blame them? The weather was fabulous! Here is a pic from the line-up for the parade in Butte. That’s Tyler Gernant, candidate for U.S. Congress there on the right, in the blue shirt. I loved the vista:

Plenty of fun was being had by all. This group was lively – and I wish I had gotten a better picture of the sweater on lad with the broken arm – it was awesome!:

Half of Butte’s parade is uphill! There’s an upside – the other half is downhill! Tyler ran a darned near sprint the whole time.

From there we were on to Anaconda. People came there, too, from far and wide….and a fun time was had by all. Look at these crowds!

Tyler again ran a sprint – everyone (in Butte and in Anaconda) wanted to talk about sending a new congressional representative to Washington. This pic is from Anaconda…Tyler Gernant is there on the right:

I had a lovely chat with this Anaconda-Deerlodge County Commissioner Robert Pierce. He was very keen on discussing the economic development on-line for Anaconda, including a natural gas-fired power plant (which was probably some of that pipeline I saw being dug), and the test sites above town for wind power energy on county-owned land that would hook into the MSTI transmission line also coming online soon. I loved his little pooch – and Pierce was a favorite – passing out over 3,300 Patty’s Day beads!

Finally – and really, I’d love to post more, there are so many great ones – are these two – the lassies and lads of Anaconda. They were gorgeous.

by jhwygirl

Back in early December, 5 senior water rights holders in 4 different basins filed a complaint to the state over its Administrative Rules regarding exempt wells. The complainants claim that the failure to adequately review the impacts of each water right as it may harm senior water rights holders can not continue – that the interpretation of what a combined appropriation (as it is in Administrative Rules) does not meet the lawful obligations under the Constitution, nor do the ARM meet the lawful intent under Montana Code Annotated.

I am in full agreement – here are just two previous posts on the subject of “exempt wells” – HERE and HERE.

Billings Gazette had a brief release today, noticing that a hearing had been set for June on exempt wells. While the brief post didn’t explain much, it’s clear from the comments that people are paying attention to the issue.

From the DNRC’s website:

HELENA, Mont. – The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) today announced the appointment of a hearings officer and a schedule for submitting briefs and public comment on water appropriation rules governing exempt wells in Montana.

“The use of exempt wells is an issue of statewide importance, with statewide implications,” said DNRC Director Mary Sexton. “This briefing and public hearing process will allow formal input from all interested parties.”

DNRC Deputy Director Joe Lamson will serve as hearings officer and will make the final determination on the issue, Sexton said.

Opening Briefs and Position Statements are due at DNRC’s Water Resources Division Hearings Unit by 5 p.m. on April 30, 2010. Responses are due by 5 p.m. on June 4, 2010.

Sexton said the Public Hearing is scheduled for 9 a.m. on June 17, 2010, in Room 303 (the Old Supreme Court Chambers) of the State Capitol, 1301 E. Sixth Avenue, in Helena.

In December 2009, the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of five petitioners requested DNRC to make a ruling on whether the combined appropriations rule governing exempt wells is consistent with applicable law.

Petitioners additionally requested DNRC adopt a new definition of the rule. Sexton said the Dept. would refrain from taking up the amendment request until a determination is made on the declaratory ruling, which is expected in July, 2010.

“This process may not be the final step in determining the appropriate use of exempt wells,” Sexton said. “Further court or legislative action made be necessary to ensure we have clarification of the term ‘combined appropriation.'”

I hope Montanans take notice of this issue – as now is the time to speak out. The problem, in a nutshell, is the state’s current exemption for review on wells (typically domestic) of up to 35 gallons per minute. And interpretation which has made its way into ARM rules allows for subdivisions to be approved as having adequate water if the developer relies on each lot drilling its own well (as opposed to looking at the combined appropriation of water for the entire subdivision and its impacts on senior water rights at the time of subdivision reviews. The rules conflict in complete ignorance to the guarantee and protections to senior water rights holders.

Developers are skating the review process for adequate water in new subdivisions by relying on exempt wells. This is occurring in closed basins – basins that the state already acknowledges are over-appropriated.

What is Montana? Is there room for ranching and farming? Water is a big part of that. Do we preserve those rights? Or do we punt the Constitution and the property rights of the individuals over the desirous property rights of those who wish to develop?

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