BRPA is a legal advocate for the Bitterroot River and its tributaries. We are willing and ready to go to court to see that our environmental laws and public access laws are enforced.
August 23, 2003 – BRPA v. Ken and Judith Siebel
This was a significant District Court decision that prevented the privatization of Montana’s public fisheries. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation issued a water right to the Siebels that would have allowed them to divert 80% of the water from a branch of the Bitterroot River that passes through their ranch for “fish and wildlife purposes.” The plan was to create a complex of stream-like ditches that carried water to a series of wetlands and ponds before returning it to the river at the bottom of their ranch, in essence, creating a private fishery for themselves while depriving the public fishery of 80% of its water. The water rights were also found to be in violation of the Closure of the Bitterroot River Basin to surface water rights that went into effect in 1999.
January 4, 2010 – BRPA v. Bitterroot Conservation District
The Mitchell Slough case was a landmark case in defense of the Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act of 1985 and Montana’s Stream Access Law. It squashed a well-funded attempt to privatize Montana’s waters. In this case a District Court ruled that both these laws only apply to “natural” waterways and that no stream or river was “natural” if it had been altered in any fashion by man. This would have removed almost every stream and river in Montana from protection under either law. BRPA won a reversal of that ruling in the Montana Supreme Court. Then-Governor Brian Schweitzer, was quoted on the front page of the New York Times, saying this about the case: “If you want to buy a big ranch and you want to have a river and you want privacy, donʼt buy in Montana. The rivers belong to the people of Montana.”
Settlement reached in Grantsdale Subdivision Wastewater Discharge Permit case
BRPA v. DEQ – Grantsdale Subdivision wastewater discharge permit
The Grantsdale Subdivision was the largest subdivision ever approved in Ravalli County at the time, 802 residences and a business plaza. Due to the economic recession it was not developed and its wastewater discharge permit was eventually revoked because the developer had failed to install the necessary monitoring station between the subdivision’s drain field and the Bitterroot River, which was only a few thousand feet away. When the economy picked up, the developer re-applied for a permit and DEQ issued it. They resolved the revocation issue by no longer requiring the monitoring. They also failed to examine any potential negative effects upon the Bitterroot River, nor did they consider any cumulative effects.
The District Court found in favor of the BRPA, voided the permit and ordered DEQ to perform a non-degradation analysis on the potential impacts to the Bitterroot River. DEQ appealed that decision to the Montana Supreme Court. On Novemberr 29, 2016 the Court ordered the case dismissed based on a stipulated agreement between the parties.
The Blood Lane waste water discharge permit was issued to a realtor on property owned by some one else. The permit was issued for a “retail store” with no further disclosure of what kind of store (speculation is that it is a Walmart) and no analysis of any potential effect on the Bitterroot River only a few thousand feet from the drainfield and no analysis of potential cumulative effects. This permit is in close proximity to Grantsdale Addition Subdivision .
The District Court ruled in favor of BRPA and voided the permit, but the case is under appeal to the Montana Supreme Court.