U.S. Water News Online
COLUMBUS, Mont. -- A group of Absarokee-area ranchers and
landowners seeking protection of senior water rights have filed a
lawsuit in District Court here against the state Department of
Natural Resources and Conservation.
"Water is critical," said Polly Rex, a spokeswoman for the group.
"It's a problem the state is going to have to come to grips with."
The suit claims the DNRC has not followed statute in dealing with
a temporary "controlled groundwater area" established southwest of
Absarokee in 2004. The designation regulates new wells by requiring
them to be permitted through the DNRC and then monitored.
The controlled groundwater area covers roughly 7,000 acres, and
was created in response to a petition by the Horse Creek Water Users
Inc., a group of area ranchers and landowners.
Rex said the designation evolved from concerns that drought,
combined with development of a neighboring subdivision, could deplete
the aquifer that supplies water for existing homes and ranch
"We have to prove we've been harmed by junior water users," she
said. "We think it should be the other way around -- that they should
have to prove that they aren't harming us."
The lawsuit says the group has monitored 23 water sources for
nearly four years and determined that the aquifer is fed by a small,
localized recharge area that has experienced progressive drawdowns
over recent years.
The suit seeks an injunction to stop the DNRC from approving new
subdivision wells until the agency has thoroughly assessed the
environmental impact of those wells.
It also alleges that the DNRC violated the Montana Environmental
Policy Act by failing to consider cumulative impacts of new wells. In
addition, it charges the agency with violating Montana's
constitutional right to "a clean and healthful environment."
Return to the
U.S. Water News' Archives page
Return to the U.S. Water
Use a comma to separate e-mail addresses:
Hi, I thought you might like to read this article.