Several folks have asked me why I remain neutral about the Egan Slough water bottling plant litigation. With the lawsuit filed by bottling plant opponents, the law requires a commissioner to maintain an open mind about the case.
If a candidate decides the case before assuming office and hearing all testimony, that commissioner may be recused due to bias. That means the recused commissioner cannot participate in any decision regarding the lawsuit.
With that caveat, here is some background:
According to the Montana Constitution, the State of Montana owns all water in the state. The state grants water rights and permits through the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The county has no involvement in these water decisions.
The commission has responsibility for zoning issues. The Egan Slough initiative, passed with about 70 percent approval, expanded the Egan Slough zoning area.
Some people claim commissioners have authority to approve, limit or disapprove the taking of water by a private property owner for a commercial operation. This is false. Only state agencies have this authority.
District Court Judge Robert Allison has heard arguments and is expected to issue a decision soon. While he makes his decision, Judge Allison has not stopped the property owner from producing bottled water. Should Judge Allison (or the Montana Supreme Court) remand the case back to the commissioners for another hearing, it is important that the commissioners follow due process of law and not prejudge the case.
In short, I will be a commissioner who listens to all sides, and does not prejudge legal cases that might require my recusal. I will follow the law and will listen to all testimony before making decisions.
—Randy Brodehl is a Republican candidate for Flathead County Commission