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Wednesday, April 6 • 2:10pm - 2:40pm
Using GIS Mapping for Montana Water Rights

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The Montana Water Court is tasked with decreeing all water rights for the State of Montana. Prior to 1973, all water was used on a first come, first served basis. With the rising population there was a rise in disputes. Montana passed a law in 1979 to move the state into a permit system. All water users had a deadline to file their historical water rights with the state.
The Montana Water Court was created to review and decree all claims into law. Claimants were instructed to over claim because it was easier to reduce a claim rather than increase. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is tasked to protect the trust interest for the reservations of the federally recognized tribes. The Water Court split the state up by water basin and systematically issues a preliminary decree for each basin one by one. The BIA reviews every single claim that may impact a tribe's reservation or interest. If the BIA objects, it has essentially entered into a court case with the claimant. Evidence has to be gathered to present to the court and disprove the water uses claim. The common items that are disputed are: ownership of the land, acres irrigated, priority dates, feasibility to irrigate, abandonment, etc.
With the use of ArcMap, the BIA can use aerial photos, measure current and historic areas of irrigation, upload Tribal Allotment information, overlay township-range-section data and upload ownership cadastrals to produce maps for the water court. These maps are a key piece of evidence in proving the BIA's case for objections. The Presenter, Kevin Bradley, will go through some examples to illustrate how the BIA uses ArcMap in court cases.


Kevin Bradley

Water Resource Engineer, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Rocky Mountain Region, Water Resources Department

Wednesday April 6, 2016 2:10pm - 2:40pm MDT
Montana/Alberta Room Heritage Inn