DSCN4628       Dam dug in by Odell Ck. Ranch to stop flow of tributary to Madison River.

  Property rights, landowner rights, water rights…all hot-button issues in Montana…always have been. I believe the landowner has solid rights, legal rights, historical rights.

   But what about this? I have a stream going through my property that feeds into another stream that leads to the water rights of others down stream. Rights that are deeded…rights that are needed…for irrigation, for crops, for feed, for electrical power, for recreation…and I decide I am going to dam off the water…I am going to stop the flow…I am going to cut off everybody downstream…cut off their water…cut off their irrigation…cut off their legally deeded water rights. Can I just arbitrarily cut off the water because I own the land it flows through? Can I just go out into the middle of the Madison River and build a dam because I own the property on both sides of the river? Can I dam up the West Fork? How about Jack Creek? O’Dell Creek?

   In Montana, water rights are sacred. I have the Ennis-Shriver Ditch running through my back yard. I have a deeded amount of miner’s inches I am legally allowed to use. So do many other folks along the ditch including ranchers and homeowners. Can I just decide to dam up the ditch to make a duck pond or a swimming hole for the kids? What if somebody upstream from me dams up the ditch? When beavers do it we blow them up!

   Every year the flows in the Madison are a worry. We have had some scary low water years…the river needs all the water it can get from snowmelt, tribuaries and spring fed sources. Arbitrarily damming up and cutting off the free flow of water to the Madison River has little to do with property rights and everything to with an assault against nature.DSCN4633

 This used to be a free-flowing tributary from O’Dell Creek into the Madison River before the Granger Ranch dammed it up and cut off the flow.