McGrath files reply in water rights case against Wyoming

By Chris Rizo | May 9, 2008

Mike McGrath

HELENA, Mont. (Legal Newsline) --Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath says a long-standing water agreement his state has with Wyoming protects Montana residents' use of water from Yellowstone River.

In a filing to the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, McGrath said Wyoming is violating the Yellowstone River Compact by depleting the Tongue and Powder Rivers of the Yellowstone River system of water to which Montana is legally entitled under the 1950 water compact.

"We have a fundamental disagreement with Wyoming on the interpretation of the Compact," McGrath said. "Wyoming thinks they can take all the water they want to satisfy their needs."

The 1950 water agreement allocated each state a share of water from the Yellowstone and its tributaries, which include the Powder and Tongue rivers.

"Montana asserts that any material depletion of the supplies apportioned to Montana when Montana uses are unsatisfied is actionable," McGrath said in the 139-page filing.

Montana sued Wyoming in February 2007, alleging that Wyoming's industries are using too much water.

"When one state takes too much water without regard to satisfaction of downstream requirements, it commits a compact violation, because the downstream state is deprived of its share to the same degree," the filing said. "There is no water unaccounted for."

Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg last month asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the lawsuit.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo by e-mail at

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