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USDA Sheep Experiment Station Compact

85-20-1201 MCA

A water rights compact for USDA Sheep Experiment Station was approved by the Montana Legislature and signed Governor Brian Schweitzer on March 27,2007. The compact settles reserved rights for stock water, domestic, irrigation, storage, dust abatement, reclamation, research, emergency fire suppression for a small Montana portion of the Sheep Experiment Station, located in the Centennial Mountains on the southwestern edge of Montana. The compact was approved by the federal agencies in March 2013. The Montana Water Court issued an Order to Approve in May 2015.

Compact Summary

The Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission was created by the Montana Legislature in 1979 to act on behalf of the State and its water users to settle the water rights associated with reserved federal land, such as the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station. The Commission (now inactive after finishing negotiations surrounding 18 compacts) was composed of nine members. Four members were appointed by the Governor, four members were legislators (two from the House and two from the Senate), and one member was appointed by the Attorney General.

The Commission negotiated with federal agencies and Indian tribes that claim federal reserved water rights within Montana. A federal reserved water right is a right to use water under federal law based on a Congressional act or treaty that reserved lands for a specific purpose. In this case, the portion of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Montana was set aside by Executive Order No. 3767 for “agricultural experiment” purposes. Most of the lands in the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, managed the Agricultural Research Service, are in Idaho and were quantified as part of the Snake River adjudication. The negotiated settlement quantifies the federal reserved water rights for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Montana as summarized below. The priority date for all reserved water rights for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Montana is December 19, 1922.

The Compact recognizes federal reserved water rights in three categories, existing uses, future uses, and emergency fire suppression.

Existing Uses

  • The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station currently uses up to 11.72 acre-feet per year from surface water for stock water use.

Future Uses

  • Up to a total of an additional 15 acre-feet per year. The future uses may be for stock water or for administrative uses. Administrative uses could include water for domestic use, to conduct research, dust abatement, reclamation or other administrative purposes from surface or groundwater to fulfill the purposes of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station.

Emergency Fire Suppression

  • Emergency Fire Suppression, as needed.


Compact Appendices

Appendix 1 - Location Map

Appendix 2 - Consumptive Use for Stock Watering Purposes

Appendix 3 - General Abstract of Water Right Claims

Appendix 4 - Water Right Claims to Be Dismissed