Stock Water Rights and Instream Flow Rights in Montana
As we all look forward to the snow melting and spring green-up, despite the high waters spring brings, some of us will start our planning for the dryer months of summer and fall. Protecting the livelihood of Montana’s ranching heritage and supporting the fascination with Montana’s fishing both require management, storage and conservation of our most precious resource. Water use within the State of Montana is considered a public good and because of that, use requires certain permits. There are commonly two permits supporting these foundational uses of Montana’s water; the Completed Stockwater Pit or Reservoir (Permit 605) and the Beneficial Water Use Permit (Permit 600).
Completed Stockwater Pit or Reservoir Permit: A 605 Permit for stockwater use can be filed for storing if (1) the capacity is less than 15 acre-feet (4.8 million gallons) with an appropriation of less than 30 acre-feet (9.6 million gallons) per year, (2) your storage pit or reservoir is located in a pasture or on a non-perennial stream, and (3) the storage is located on your property or property you control that is 40 acres or larger. The 605 Permit form needs to be filed after you complete the pit or reservoir. Current application costs is $125.
The Beneficial Water Use Permit: The 600 permit is the most common for water use throughout the State. It covers all surface water uses and all ground water use exceeding 35 gallons per minute or 10 acre-feet per year. This includes in-stream flow rights for fish conservation, habitat management or water quality protection. As discussed in the last news letter, beneficial use must be designated in order to file for a water right. The most common misconception for in-stream flow applications under a 600 Permit is that, leaving water in a stream is considered a beneficial use; this is not the case. However, cooperation with an organization such as MT Fish Wildlife & Parks, the Fish & Wildlife Service or Trout Unlimited can help an applicant classify an application for instream-flow as a beneficial use. Each of these organizations have the potential to classify instream-flow as a beneficial use depending on their structure and guidelines for water conservation and species management. The guidelines will differ by organization.
Northwest Management, Inc. has extensive experience with Montana water right permitting and can help you get the most for your time and effort.
Mark Corrao is a graduate of Colorado State University with a Masters in Hydrology. He has been employed with the State of Montana and Wyoming specializing in water rights.