Restore CSKT-Lake County cooperation

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Over the past few years, differences have bubbled up between Lake County commissioners and CSKT over such issues as taxation, density regulation, and judicial system expenditures. Experience shows that it is vitally important to prevent bubbles from bursting into full-blown conflicts.

For example, from 2010 to 2013, we irrigators benefited from joint CSKT-irrigator management of our irrigation project. In 2014, conflict and litigation among irrigators and with CSKT ended cooperation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) took back project management.

Each side has its own, often stubbornly held, points of view. County commissioners point out that CSKT does not pay taxes to meet public needs. CSKT responds that it contributes in other ways. For example, since the early 1990s, CSKT has obtained tens of millions of dollars from the BIA Safety of Dams Program to rehabilitate 14 dams that hold water for irrigation.

Without CSKT, irrigators would have had to pay for rehabilitation or face federal restrictions on stored water. CSKT dam rehabilitation expenditures also benefited local businesses, families and indirectly tax revenues.

CSKT and Lake County commissioners need to find ways to improve communication and cooperation. It also is important to prevent tensions and conflicts from spreading to other government entities, including school boards, fire departments and police departments.

Electing Caroline McDonald Lake County commissioner would be an important step in that direction. A new and constructive voice is needed. Caroline has a proven record of bringing opposing sides together to find mutually beneficial solutions.

— Dick Erb, Moiese

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