Revisions to state law may be necessary to handle an avalanche of late water rights claims within the decades-long adjudication of historic water rights, according to a proposal in front of the Water Policy Interim Committee.

The WPIC has released a staff memo outlining potential conflicts between:

  • More than 25,000 late domestic and stock water claims filed last year under the "HB110" process authorized by the 2017 Legislature, and
  • Statutory benchmarks requiring the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to re-examine 90,000 historic water rights claims. This court-ordered re-examination was launched in 2015 to ensure accuracy and fairness for all claims filed in the statewide adjudication.

The Montana Water Court and the DNRC have proposed a solution to revamp the benchmarks, ensuring a more efficient process and less confusion for water rights holders. The two entities have worked together for more than 40 years, legally determining historical, pre-1973 water rights. The WPIC will consider the proposal at their May 18-19 meeting.

The WPIC is led by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, chairman, and Sen. Jeffrey Welborn, R-Dillon, vice-chairman. Other members of the committee are   Sen. Jill Cohenour (D-E. Helena), Sen. Bruce “Butch” Gillespie (R-Ethridge), Sen. Jon Sesso (D-Butte), Rep. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls), Rep. Carl Glimm (R-Kila), Rep. Bradley Maxon Hamlett (D-Cascade), Rep. Shane Morigeau (D-Missoula), and Rep. Walt Sales (R-Manhattan).

The committee's upcoming meeting will be livestreamed at and will be broadcast on the Montana Public Affairs Network (MPAN). For more information on the committee’s activities and upcoming meeting, including a full agenda, please visit the committee’s website or contact Jason Mohr, committee staff.

Committee Website:

Committee Staff: or 406-444-1640


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