The Montana Water Court has met a critical milestone with the issuance of the first final decree in the decades-long adjudication of water rights. It covers rights claimed by the United States on behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. The decree includes 12 water basins and is the first decree issued that addresses tribal reserved water rights outside of a negotiated compact. A final decree provides the ultimate authority on priority use and amount of water allocated to users in a particular basin. Water rights adjudication in Montana began in 1979 with the passage of the Water Use Act.
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