Water rights must be filed before end of June

Thursday, May 16, 2019
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The final deadline is near to file your water rights to declare your priority of usage.

By Eleanor Guerrero

CCN Senior Reporter


Some people in Carbon County have received water rights notices and put them aside. They were sent out months ago and there was plenty of time to look into it. “I’m not sure what it says, “ said one woman. “But I do recall it had a deadline of June 30. Could you look into it?” she asked. 

We did. According to Mary Broach, Compliance Officer of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the water rights pertain to those existing before 1973.

For example, if you are an old homestead that never filed your water rights usage, you could lose your priority if you don’t file now. This would apply to stock and domestic use as well. 

 Some purchasers in subdivisions got the forms at closing from their title companies to be filed later with a copy of the recorded deed. Others may have not heard about it at all. In case you didn’t do so, or can’t recall, you might want to double check your paperwork. 

Regional Manager Mark Elison of the DNRC made it crystal clear that homesteads and other landowners that are not filed could lose the priority of their water use if challenged by anyone upstream who has filed. Elison said, “They’d remain exempt as always have been, if they’re using a well or livestock (watered) direct from source. The few things that are exempt they continue to be exempt. They’re not required to file on those to use them. However, those rights would become junior to all current and future water uses that are filed.” 

He said a water right that shows active at the DNRC site is a priority filed. 

The crucial thing for the public to be aware of is that the deadline to file for any priority is final according to Elison. “If they do not get a priority date (filed) before June 30, they cannot file it unless legislature extends the deadline or reopens it.”

To see if your water right is active check: http://wrqs.dnrc.mt.gov/default.aspx with your name (last name first) or geocode number. But don’t just rely on that; water rights are complicated. Feel free to call and ask questions from the offices in charge. This article solely provides resources. 

This omission to file often applies to old homestead rights. Land patents can be viewed at   https://glorecords.blm.gov/default.aspx.  Keep trying if the site doesn’t work the first time as we did. 

Broach noted that failure to file doesn’t keep you from using your water rights, but it affects the priority of your water rights. “It’s not required (to file). You are subordinated to other filed rights. You could continue to use them unless challenged.” 

Once you file there is a review by DNRC and an adjudication of its exempt claim status. Brandy Bray (DNRC) can assist in providing information about homesteads (247-4426).

For forms see: DNRC forms at dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/water/water-rights, go to HB110 exempt claims filing form. Remember, there is that June 30 deadline. “That’s (the date for the filled out form) to be received, not postmarked,” noted Broach. The local office for Carbon County information is the Billings DNRC at (406) 247-4415. 


Upcoming Events

  • Friday, September 20, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Saturday, September 21, 2019 - 11:30am
    Ross Orchards, located at 111 North Street in Fromberg, is proud to announce the opening of a farm stand this Fall. The orchard will be open Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Sundays noon - 5 p.m. starting Sept. 21 and closing Oct. 13. The orchard is working in conjunction with the Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill and Red Lodge Ales to offer fun, family-friendly events.   Every weekend apples, fresh apple cider pressed with apples from the orchard, apple pastries, local honey, food, hard cider, and beer will be available.  There will also be pumpkins and a variety of local produce for sale. Additionally, each weekend will have a different event. Sept. 21 - 22 – Cider and Salutations yoga 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Sept. 28 – A farm to table dinner at 5 p.m. catered by the Last Chance Pub’s chef Kevin McNourlin. The dinner will feature local foods paired with cider. Contact info@lastchancecider.com to reserve seats (limit 40) Oct. 5 - 6 - Kidz Dayz. Bounce house, pumpkin carving, face painting and tractor rides through the orchard. Oct. 12- Orchard run 5k. A family-friendly run/walk through Ross Orchards. Visit redlodgeales.com/orchard-days to sign up. Sam Hoffmann, President of Red Lodge Ales, remarked, “it has been fun to get to know John, Laura, Hilary, and Elizabeth Ross over the last ten plus years. Together we have pruned, picked apples, and made cider on a home brew level and now commercially. We are proud to share our work with the public.” John Ross, owner of Ross Orchards, adds, “The orchard has always been a source of pride and happiness for me.  Our family has enjoyed working with Sam and Lindsey Hoffmann and their employees. We look forward to the success of Orchard days.” Contact for more info: John Ross 406-671-9614, johnwalkerross@gmail.com; Sam Hoffmann 406-425-4607, sam@redlodgeales.net; Lindsey Hoffmann 406-425-3734, lindseyhoffmann406@yahoo.com  
  • Monday, September 23, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, September 24, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 26, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, September 26, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.