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Montana Water Court Rules on Abandonment

In another major water rights decision, a Montana water court affirmed that Gene Klamert had not abandoned valuable water rights on Flatwillow Creek in Petroleum County. Upstream landowners Daniel Iverson, Dan Wilks, and Farris Wilks had appealed a 2017 ruling by Water Master Ben Sudduth in Klamert’s favor. They contended that Klamert’s failure to irrigate for 17 years led to the abandonment. “The Court finds the Master’s recommendations are based on substantial evidence,” wrote associate Montana Water Court Judge Douglas Ritter. The decision was closely followed because cases involving abandonment are rarely heard. Under Montana water law, a water right with an early priority date is beneficial since water is allocated on a “first in time is first in right” basis. The earlier the priority right the better the water right.
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Photo Credit: Brett French, Billings Gazette



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