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PSC, GOP and the Salish-Kootenai

Written by Pete Talbot

The Montana Public Service Commission doesn’t mind large utility companies keeping secrets but the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes need to open their books.

Just last month, three of the five commissioners ruled that Liberty Utilities Co. gets special protection to “secret information” in its bid to buy Missoula’s Mountain Water Co.

Then yesterday, the entire commission decided that the transfer of Kerr Dam to the tribes wasn’t public enough and there was a “lack of financial transparency.”

It was 1985 when talks started on the transfer of the dam (recently renamed the Salish Kootenai Dam).  The PSC waited thirty years, on the final day of the Oct. 1 deadline, to request public hearings.

This follows on the heels of former state Sen. Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell) and current state Sen. Bob Keenan (R-Bigfork) filing suit to stop the transfer.  Here are some of their bizarre reasons for filing the suit:

“It would appear that this setting would provide Turkey and such organizations with the opportunity to more freely promote their brand of Islam on reservations and/or to pursue other potentially more dangerous activities,” the complaint states.

That includes the possibility that Turkey seeks “access to the uranium deposits and bountiful water sources surrounding the Flathead Reservation for production of yellowcake capable of later conversion to a gaseous state for eventual use in incendiary devices.”

(I can’t think of anything scarier than radical Muslim Native Americans with nukes.)

Add that to the GOP’s attempt to torpedo the Flathead Tribal Water Rights Compact in the 2015 state legislature and it looks like Republican lawmakers aren’t very fond of Salish/Kootenai sovereignty.

UPDATE: James Conner at Flathead Memo has a good take on this and wonders if tribal sovereignty opponents’ ” … ultimate strategy is getting Congress to repeal the Hellgate Treaty and disband the CSKT reservation.”


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