Kearns and Sons RS Aesthetics

County mistaken on water rights


Ideology trumps facts in Commissioner Suzy Foss’ letter to the editor regarding the Forest Service application for in-stream water rights.

Facts: The State controls water in Montana. The State legislated a process for the USFS to protect water on USFS managed public land by applying to the State for ‘in-stream’ water rights. There would be no water diverted from the streams. The water right would be junior to all existing water rights. All existing water use is downstream of the stream reaches affected.

The State agency representative made it clear at the County Commission meeting that the law was written to avoid any and all harm. ‘No harm, no foul’ is a basic tenet of a free society. One of the family values my Dad taught us kids is not to cry if we’re not hurt. Suzy’s complaint is clearly not justified; there is no harm to the County or any people using the water. To the contrary, we all, people and fish, benefit if available water stays in streams until it flows off USFS land onto private land. In normal times this would be seen as protecting existing private property water rights.

The State agent also described the legislated criteria to legitimately object to this water right application. None of the criteria are applicable in the present case. You don’t need a lawyer to tell which way the water flows, but we Ravalli County taxpayers will be paying for a clearly baseless Objection drafted by our County Attorney.

It is a blind ideological, Tea Party inspired, County supremacy / ‘coordination’ / sagebrush rebellion campaign against the US Forest Service that leads the Commissioners to want to ‘cut off their nose to spite their face’. They would risk leaving the water that flows into the Valley unprotected rather than allowing their favorite bogeyman, the FS, to protect in-stream flows. They direct their groundless ire against the USFS, the applicant, rather than the State of Montana that legislated the law.

Fortunately for the fish and people in Ravalli County, the Objection will almost certainly be overruled, and this latest taxpayer funded ‘tempest in a Tea pot’ will be confined to ever-boiling Tea Party Fed bashing.

As I said at the Commissioners’ meeting, I am more worried about Big Corporations, Inc. taking the water if it is available. Big Corporations work ‘hand in glove’ with Big Government. Corporate interests are the hands; governments, controlled by corporate interest money, act as gloves that prevent blisters and fingerprints (accountability) from corporate theft, damage to real persons and disregard for laws meant to protect the interests of actual persons. Remember, water does not necessarily flow downhill; it flows toward money. Next time the water rights legislation may be made by State legislators bought and paid for by Big Corporation campaign contributions.

Larry Campbell


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