Jeffrey T. Matson has published “Interstate Water Compact Version 3.0: Missouri River Basin Compact Drafters Should Consider an Inter-Sovereign Approach to Accommodate Federal and Tribal Interests in Water Resources” in the North Dakota Law Review.
In the aftermath of the historic 2011 Missouri River flood, Missouri River Basin (MRB) state representatives and governors criticize the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for operating the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System (System) in support of the multiple, often conflicting, purposes outlined in the Flood Control Act of 1944. These officials envision entering into an interstate compact to divest the Corps of some of its operational authority and to broaden their role in managing water resources. Similarly, MRB tribal leaders argue that the Corps fails to operate its System in a manner that respects the interrelated issues of Indian reserved water rights and tribal sovereignty. As States and Tribes contemplate a rebalancing of power in the MRB, it is essential that any water resources management solution provide a forum in which affected States, Tribes, and the Federal government might work together in pursuit of interconnected interests. Accordingly, it is time for stakeholders to think beyond the dualistic “federal-interstate” compact arrangement and seriously consider a pluralistic “federal-interstate-tribal” approach – even if Indian reserved water rights are not yet quantified. Although such a tripartite approach is a departure from traditional compacting practice, the great weight of Indian reserved water rights warrants tribal representation on any commission charged with implementing a twenty-first century MRB water resources compact. Further, it would be unrealistic to expect a federal commissioner to represent tribal interests until such time as rights are quantified, given the Federal government’s conflict of interest in operating the System for other consumptive users. This Article concludes that the Federal government’s interests in flood protection, navigation, and national security, and the Tribes’ interests in protecting reserved water rights and tribal sovereignty, warrant an inter-sovereign approach whereby power is shared equally among signatories to this compact.