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Water board to hold first meeting at Ronan

by SCOT HEISEL
Lake County Leader | January 19, 2022 3:57 PM

A new state board that will administer and manage all aspects of water use within the Flathead Indian Reservation will hold its first meeting from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20 at the Ronan Community Center.

The five-member Flathead Reservation Water Management Board was established as part of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ water compact with the state of Montana that was signed into law by Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland on Sept. 17. Its duties include the issuance of new water rights, changes to existing and future rights, and enforcement of water rights.

Gov. Greg Gianforte last week announced he has appointed Kenneth Pitt of Polson and Roger Noble of Kalispell to serve on the board. The two men were part of a pool of candidates nominated by affected counties. Pitt and Noble were among five nominees put forth by Lake County Commissioners in December.

Pitt is an attorney who specializes in environment and tribal law and teaches natural resource policy and administration as an adjunct professor at the University of Montana.

Noble, a geologist, listed work experience “in excess of 40 years of hydrology, hydrogeology and water right applications and processing” on his letter of interest.

The CSKT Tribal Council previously named its two board members. They are Teresa Wall McDonald, CSKT policy analyst and head of the Tribal Lands Department; and CSKT Tribal Services Director Clayton Matt, who was instrumental in negotiating the CSKT Compact.

Pitt’s term will run through Dec. 31, 2023, while Noble’s term will run through Dec. 31, 2025, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office.

Among the board’s top priorities will be the selection of a fifth member, though that action is not specifically listed on a proposed agenda released Jan. 13. The agenda lists: introductions; informational update (board jurisdiction, DNRC and CSKT staff updates); business items (board membership, technical assistance); board member contact details; next steps; and public comment.

Secretary Haaland will select a sixth, ex officio member.

Members of the public will be allowed to attend the meeting in person or remotely via Zoom at https://bit.ly/FRWMmeeting. The Zoom link also can be accessed at csktribes.org or dnrc.mt.gov.

Recordings of meetings and notice of future meetings will be posted on DNRC Compact Implementation Program website (https://tinyurl.com/5yzxae5k) and the CSKT Water Rights website (https://tinyurl.com/4dfbrx99).