A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

28 February 2015

Notes on the MT Legislature’s first half

CSKT compact, SB-262. It passed the MT Senate 31–19. Opponents in the MT House will try to kill it by bottling it up in committee, and attaching poison pill amendments. I suspect it will reach the floor only through a blast.

Senate supporters of the bill seemed surprised by concerns that the compact might lower the level of Flathead Lake during the summer boating season. Having spent years dealing with the issue of summer lake levels, I wasn’t. The compact won’t affect Flathead Lake’s levels, which are governed by the federal license for Kerr Dam. The reserved water rights compact commission should publish a short paper explaining the difference.

Sen. Fielder’s special interest paid aide. Montana Cowgirl has a good post on this situation, which was uncovered by the Bozeman Chronicle. This situation never should have developed. Fielder displayed remarkably poor judgment, and she’ll be fortunate if she escapes formal sanctions for her behavior.

…read the rest


27 February 2015

Tester’s 4 Pinocchios cast shadow on his straight shooter reputation


Sen. Jon Tester should stop talking about logging until he gets his fury over litigated timber sales under control. Talking to Montana Public Radio a few days ago, he wrongly alleged that every national forest timber sale in Montana was tied up in litigation. After he was called on that untruth, he tried to weasel with statistics instead of issuing a contrite, handsome, unqualified apology for getting it wrong.

That earned him a scathing column by George Ochenski, a 4-Pinocchio whopper of a mistruth certification from the Washington Post, and some wry poetry at 4and20Blackbirds.

This wasn’t the result of poor staff work, or having been misinformed by the agency. It was the result of Tester’s personality and natural resources philosophy.

…read the rest


26 February 2015

CSKT water compact update

Updated at 1423 MST. SB-262, sponsored by Sen. Chas Vincent (R-Libby) passed the MT Senate on the third reading today, 31–19. Only one senator, Gene Vuckovich (D-Anaconda), changed his vote. Vuckovich voted Nay on the second reading, but Aye on the third reading. Update at 2203 MST. The legislature’s website published a corrected vote total after this report was written. Sen. Vuckovich also voted Nay on the third reading. Perhaps someday he’ll explain why.

I record the votes for bills in a private database I designed. Here’s an updated Excel spreadsheet of how our senators voted on the blast and second and third readings of SB-262.

Earlier. SB-262 was approved 31–19 yesterday on its second reading in the senate. Twenty Democrats and 11 Republicans voted Aye, while one Democrat (Gene Vuckovich, Anaconda) and 18 Republicans voted Nay. Three who voted to blast the bill out of committee (Rick Ripley, Frederick Moore, and Vuckovich) cast Nays on the second reading, while one who voted against the blast (Brian Hoven, R-Great Falls) voted Aye. Three poison pill amendments were rejected. The third reading is today. It will pass.

Bigfork Republican Sen. Bob Keenan sought assurances that approval of the compact would not change the level of Flathead Lake. Sen. Chas Vincent, SB-262’s sponsor, wasn’t able to provide a definitive answer, but I can. It won’t. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s license for Kerr Dam authorizes filling the lake to 2893 Somers Datum, and a number of agreements control when, how high, and how fast the lake is raised or drawn down. The issue is important to boaters, who still remember the abnormally low summer lake levels in 2001 (hydrograph) when keels scraped the bottom at some docks. The CSKT are taking ownership of Kerr Dam (which will be renamed), and will have every incentive and obligation to maintain the current regimen of lake levels.

In my judgment, much of the opposition to the compact is philosophical, not practical. In particular, the time immemorial off-reservation instream flows have struck a nerve with some people, who evidently regard the flows as a de facto expansion of the CSKT reservation and part of a tribal irredentist campaign to oust white people from western Montana. This fear of irredentism, based in part I think on occasional over-the-top rhetoric issuing from CSKT members, is so powerful that it impairs the rational faculties of those holding it.