Montana Code Annotated 2015

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     85-2-221. Filing of claim of existing water right -- filing late claim. (1) A person claiming an existing right, unless exempted under 85-2-222 or unless an earlier filing date is ordered as provided in 85-2-212, shall file with the department no later than June 30, 1983, a statement of claim for each water right asserted on a form provided by the department.
     (2) The department shall file a copy of each statement of claim with the clerk of the district court for the judicial district in which the diversion is made or, if there is a claimed right with no diversion, the department shall file a copy of the statement of claim with the clerk of the district court of the judicial district in which the use occurs.
     (3) Subject to certain terms and conditions, the legislature intends to provide for the remission of the forfeiture of existing rights to the use of water caused by the failure to comply with subsection (1). Accordingly, with respect only to a basin that has not been closed to further appropriation pursuant to a compact ratified by the legislature under part 7 of this chapter prior to July 1, 1993, a claim of an existing water right not filed with the department on or before April 30, 1982, may be filed with the department on or before July 1, 1996, on forms provided by the department. This section is not intended to prevent the filing of a late claim in addition to a claim of an existing water right filed on or before April 30, 1982, if and to the extent that the additional right claimed is not the same as the right that was the subject of a previous claim and is not an abandoned right. Claims must be physically submitted to the department or sent by United States mail, postmarked on or before the deadline set forth in this subsection, in order to be considered timely. The claims are then subject to adjudication by the district courts as any other claim of existing right. The claimant is then subject to all rights and obligations of any other party, except that:
     (a) a late claim must be incorporated into the adjudication, subject to all proceedings that have taken place prior to the date of filing;
     (b) the person filing a late claim may request that a decree previously entered be reopened or may object to matters previously determined on the merits by the water court only to the extent that the request or objection is otherwise authorized by law and is based on a claim of water right filed on or before April 30, 1982;
     (c) a person filing a late claim does not have the right or standing to object to any water rights compact reached in accordance with part 7 of this chapter that is ratified by the legislature prior to July 1, 1993, except to the extent that right or standing to object exists based on a claim of water right filed on or before April 30, 1982, or to claim protection for the right represented in the late claim under any provision of such a compact that subordinates the use of a water right recognized in the compact to a right recognized under state law;
     (d) if the water judge, following objection under 85-2-233, finds that the right represented in the late claim was the subject of a prior order or decree by the water judge or is otherwise without merit, the water judge shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the person or persons filing the objection;
     (e) a right represented in a late claim is subordinate to all federal and Indian reserved water rights established by compact or decree under this chapter;
     (f) unless a late claim either was placed in the United States mail and postmarked on or before April 30, 1982, or, if there is no evidence of the date of mailing, there is evidence of execution on or before April 30, 1982, and actual receipt by the department on or before May 7, 1982, the right represented in the claim is, in addition, subordinate to:
     (i) rights represented in all valid, timely filed claims; and
     (ii) rights represented in a permit or reservation of water issued under this chapter if and to the extent that the person holding the permit or reservation files an objection under this part and proves that the person holding the permit or reservation reasonably relied to the detriment of the person holding the permit or reservation upon the failure of the claimant to file a claim on or before April 30, 1982.
     (4) The department and the district courts may not accept any statements of claim physically submitted or postmarked after July 1, 1996, and shall notify a person who files a claim after July 1, 1996, that the claim will not be accepted.

     History: En. Sec. 11, Ch. 697, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 4, Ch. 629, L. 1993.

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