MONTANA INSTREAM WTER RIGHT LAW AND POLICY
Instream Flow Protection
Strategies in Montana Water Law


Presentation Goals

  • Introduction to Montana Water Law

  • In stream Flow Protection Methods
    • Murphy Rights (Statutory Designation)
    • Storage
    • Water Reservations
    • Water Leasing (Transactional Protection)
    • Basin Closures

  • Process of Evaluation for Leasing

Return to top


Montana Water Law: Overriding Principles

  • Prior Appropriation State
    • First in Time
    • First in Right
    • No other ranking priorities

  • Historic Use defines the limits of a rights

  • Beneficial Use also limits a right

  • Right to "unchanged stream conditions"
    • Balanced with a "reasonable diversion test"

Return to top


Water Law: Pre 1973

  • No single method of appropriation
    • Use Rights
    • Filed Appropriations
    • Decreed Rights

  • No statewide administration

  • County level or stream specific judicial actions

  • Diversionary rule (no instream flow recognition)

Return to top


Montana Law Evolves

  • Magic Events:
    • 1972 Montana Constitutional Conventions
    • 1973 "Montana Water Use Act"

Return to top


Montana Constitution

  1. Confirmed existing water rights.
  2. Declared use & conveyance of water a "public use".
  3. All waters are property of the state.
  4. Directed the creation of a system of administration.

  5. Montana Constitution, Article IX, Section 3

The legislature shall provide for the

  • administration,
  • control,
  • regulation of water rights,
  • shall establish a system of centralized records, in addition to the present system of local records.

  • Montana Constitution, Article IX, Section 3, Subpart 4, Water rights.

Return to top


Montana Water Use Act

  1. Developed an Adjudicatory Process (Pre-1973 water rights).
  2. Revised and Updated Montana Water Statutes.
  3. Developed a Water Right Permitting System. (Post-1973, New Appropriations)

  4. Codified in Title 85 Montana Codes Annotated

Return to top


Montana's Stream Adjudication

  • Identify and quantify Montana's existing water rights.
  • Confirming individual water right priorities

  • Codified 85-2 212 to 243 MCA

Existing Instream Water Rights - map Larger Map
Return to top


New Appropriations:

  • Guides development of ALL new water rights. (Permitting)

  • Provide opportunities for future use. (Water Reservations)
    Codified in Title 85, part 3

  • Administers certain modifications to water rights. (Changes)
    Codified in Title 85, part 4

Return to top


Water Permit Application Process
Existing Instream Water Rights - map Larger Map
Return to top


The Permitting Process: Simplified

  • Application
  • Department review (Correct & Complete)
  • Public Notice
  • Objections
  • Hearing
  • Issuance or denial

Return to top


"Changes"

  • "Changes" in Appropriation Water Rights
    85-2-402 MCA 2001


  • A "Changed" defined
    • Point of diversion
    • Place of Use
    • Purpose of Use
    • Place of Storage
    85-2-102 (4) MCA 2001

Return to top


Delivery and Enforcement of Rights

  • The reality of day to day water allocation
    • It is often a private action
    • Water user to water user
    • Government is typically not involved

  • Typically a single stream reach.

  • Relief found in District Court

Return to top


Water Commissioners

  • Water Commissioner Appointments:
    • Adjudicated or
    • "Stored" water.

  • Agent of the District Court

  • Supervised by the Court

  • Complaints & questions resolved by judicial review.


  • Codified 85-5-101 through 408 MCA

Return to top


Instream Protection Methods

  • Murphy Rights (Statutory Designation)
  • Storage
  • Water Reservations
  • Water Leasing
  • Basin Closures

Return to top


"Murphy Rights"

  • Statutory Designation

  • "Blue Ribbon" Streams

  • 12 Streams
    • Big Spring Creek
    • Blackfoot River
    • Flathead River
    • Middle Fk Flathead
    • N. Fk Flathead
    • So. Fk Flathead
    • Gallatin River
    • Madison River
    • Upper Missouri River
    • Rock Creek (tributary to Clark Fork River)
    • Smith River
    • Upper Yellowstone

Return to top


Storage

  • Dedicated flows from storage projects

  • A diversionary use of water

  • Protected Releases

  • Storage Options:
    • Additional Development
    • Operational Changes
    • Purchase of Stored Water

Existing Instream Water Rights - map Larger Map
Return to top


Water Reservations:

  1. "stake claim" to water for future use

  2. Or

  3. Protect instream flow for fish or water quality.
  • Limited to Public entities


  • Yellowstone River Basin
    • 8 municipalities,
    • 14 conservation districts, and
    • 6 state and federal agencies (Priority date December 15, 1978)

  • Upper Missouri River Basin (Above Fort Peck Dam)
    • 17 municipalities,
    • 15 conservation districts, and
    • 4 state and federal agencies (Priority date July 1, 1985)

  • Lower Missouri River Basin (Below Fort Peck Dam)
    • 9 municipalities,
    • 8 conservation districts, and
    • 1 state agency

  • Little Missouri River Basin
    • Water Reservations granted to:
    • 2 municipalities,
    • 3 conservation districts, and
    • 1 state agency (Priority date July 1, 1985)

Return to top


Water Leasing

  • Instream flow water transfers

  • Three statutory provisions
    • FWP Water Leasing Study (85-2-436 MCA)
    • Private In Stream Flow Program (85-2-408 MCA)
    • Upper Clark Fork Pilot Program (85-2-439 MCA)

  • All limited to temporary exchanges

  • All have "study" provisions

  • All have statutory "sunset" or termination dates

  • All are subject to "Change" review

Return to top


Water Leases & Conversions

  • Lease

  • Conversion

  • Conservation / Salvage
    • Lease saved water
    • Convert saved water

  • Options:
    • Lease to FWP
    • Lease to Private Party
    • Convert

Return to top


Change Criteria

  • Adverse Effect
    • Junior & Senior rights
    • Existing rights, permits, certificates and reservations

  • Adequate diversion, construction and operation plans

  • Beneficial Use

  • Possessory Interest

  • Water Quality


  • 85-2-402 MCA

Return to top


"Water Leasing Study" - Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, & Parks Program

  • FWP & legislative Environmental Quality Council Study
  • Exclusive method of FWP to "Change" an Appropriation right to instream flow.
  • Limited to 40 streams
  • Enacted 1989
  • Terminates 2009

  • Codified 85-3-436 & 437 MCA

Return to top


Reporting Requirements

  • Length of stream reach & how determined
  • Methods and data used to determine stream flow or volume needed
  • Standards & data used to substantiate amount of water available
  • Contractual parameters & steps taken to ensure no harm
  • Monitoring methods

Return to top


Upper Clark Fork Pilot Program

  • Limited to the Upper Clark Fork Basin

  • Leases or Temporary Changing a Water Right to Instream Flow.

  • Special Provisions
    • Length and location of reach
    • Detailed measuring plan
    • Maximum amount leased = Amount historically diverted
    • Maximum use to benefit fishery resource = Amount consumed

  • Codified 85-2-439

Return to top


Statewide Private Leasing Program

  • Limited to water need to maintain or enhance instream flow for the BENEFIT of fish.
  • An additional pre-application notice and consultation required.
  • Leasing or
  • Conversion
  • Enforcement by water right owner.

  • Codified 85-2-408 & 409 MCA

Return to top


Basin Closure

  • Legislative Closure (Statutory)
    • Closes basin to new water user permits & water reservations
    • Permanent or Temporary Closure
    • Exemptions:
      • Ground water, Stock water, Storage projects
    • Ground water report or SW/GW interaction

  • Compact Closures (Treaty or Compact)
    • Tribes or Federal entity & State

  • Administrative Closures (Rule-based)
    • Permit Action in Highly Appropriated Basins (enacted 1983, 85-2-319 MCA)
    • Controlled Ground-water Areas (enacted 1961, 85-2-506 MCA)

Existing Instream Water Rights - map Larger Map
Return to top


Contacts

Return to top
Quick Find:

Presentation Goals

MT Water Law: Overriding Principles

Water Law: Pre 1973

MT Law Evolves

MT Constitution

MT Water Use Act

MT's Stream Adjudication

New Appropriations

Water Permit Application Process

The Permitting Process: Simplified

"Changes"

Delivery and Enforment of Rights

Water Commissioners

Instream Protection Methods

"Murphy Rights"

Storage

Water Reservations

Water Leasing

Water Leases & Conversions

Change Criteria

Water Leasing Study

Reporting Requirements

Upper Clark Fork Pilot Program

Statewide Private Leasing Program

Basin Closure

Contacts