The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA), in partnership with other organizations who represent ranchers, farmers, business owners, cities, counties, local governments, irrigation districts and ditch companies, has filed a joint amicus brief with the Supreme Court of Montana supporting Tintina Montana, Inc. and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation regarding whether every person who manipulates or interacts with water should be required to obtain a water right, even when there is no beneficial use of water.The joint amicus brief was filed on Oct. 23.
The case, TU v Tintina, involves Trout Unlimited and other conservation objectors who 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 MSGA Executive Vice President Raylee Honeycutt. “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 objector’s 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.