- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) - U.S. Sen. Jon Tester says he’s introducing legislation to ratify the $2.3 billion water rights compact for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Tester made the announcement Thursday, acknowledging that it’s the first step in a long process toward full congressional approval.

The bill would approve a water rights deal between federal and state governments and the CKST that came after 11 years of negotiations. The measure defines the federally reserved water rights for the CSKT and includes protections for those with existing water rights.

It affects water use on the Flathead Indian Reservation and throughout western Montana.

Tester says the biggest challenge to getting Congress to support the compact is the multibillion-dollar price tag, but he’s confident lawmakers will find a way to pay for it.

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