The Montana Stockgrowers Association and other organizations have filed a joint amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Montana centered around the case TU v Tintina, an issue centered around the redefinition of water rights in the state.
MSGA notes that other organizations representing ranchers, farmers, business owners, cities, counties, local governments, irrigation districts, and ditch companies have joined the amicus brief, supporting Tintina Montana Inc. and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. The groups offer insight into whether every person who manipulates or interacts with water should be required to obtain a water right, even when there’s no beneficial use of the water.
TU v Tintina involves Montana Trout Unlimited, the Montana Environmental Information Center, Trout Unlimited, Earthworks, and American Rivers, which have asked the court to fundamentally redefine what a water right is in Montana. They argue that the Tintina mine should be required to obtain a water right for water that will infiltrate into underground mine tunnels that Tintina will not use but instead will re-infiltrate back into the groundwater aquifer.
“MSGA and our partners represent the largest and oldest water rights holders and water users in Montana,” stated Raylee Honeycutt, MSGA Executive Vice President. “A fundamental rewrite of the Water Use Act will broadly impact thousands of other legal manipulations of water. Changing the definition of beneficial use, the basis for every water right in Montana will have profound unintended consequences for Montana ranchers.”
The consequences of the case go far beyond the proposed Tintina mine. The objectors’ desire to change the law would require MSGA’s members to obtain a water right for nearly any interaction with water on their property, even when there is no proposed use of water. Beneficial use, as currently defined by Montana statute, is clear and its meaning should not be disturbed or expanded by the courts.
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Author: Heidi Crnkovic