Thursday, March 19, 2015

Right-to-take lawsuit pits city against corporate raiders

In March of 2011 just before flooding overtook the stories Rob Chaney of the Missoulian was covering, two huge and related issues were circulating in Montana news.

The Smurfit-Stone sale replete with copious water rights going to somebody calling themselves Ralston Investments was trending concurrently with news that the Carlyle Group will buy Missoula-based Mountain Water.

In 2014 Carlyle announced it would sell the utility to a Canadian company.
Barring a negotiated resolution, [Missoula mayor, John] Engen said the city could resort to further litigation to stop Carlyle’s sale of Mountain Water to Algonquin. [Missoula Independent]
Now Missoula's right to force the sale of Mountain Water is in court.
This condemnation trial is unusual in at least one way, said Joe Conner, who gave opening statements on behalf of Mountain Water Co. He said the city has named 29 witnesses, and it's a long list of people. "I've tried several right-to-take cases, your honor. I've never seen as many witnesses," Connor said. To win, the city of Missoula must prove public use of the asset by the municipality is "more necessary" than use by the private company, he said. He said the bar is high because the water company already serves a public use. [Keila Szpaller]
This blogger believes the Mountain Water story and Montana's history of failed forest policy are inextricably linked.

Before European settlement the lodgepole and ponderosa pine stands that transpire trillions of gallons of water each year on public lands didn't exist because they were cleared by indigenous cultures for millennia. The fire resistant aspen and other hardwoods whose leaves reflect sunlight and hold snowpacks were logged out allowing the ingrowth of conifers whose needles absorb heat and accelerate snow melt.

Imagine a time when Carlyle builds a pipeline and sells Montana water to a parched Colorado River basin.

Montana is the water tower of the West. Carlyle's power play should scare the shit out of everyone who uses water.

A California blogger sees a pattern west of the Divide. Read more at Forests to Faucets.

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