The Flathead Reservation contains approximately 980 miles of rivers and streams, 90 lakes, and extensive wetlands within the Reservation. The largest lake is Flathead Lake, which covers approximately 123,000 acres with 62,000 acres located within the Flathead Indian Reservation boundary.

In late 1972 a marina owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jim Namen, located on the southern half of Flathead Lake in Polson Bay, began constructing an earthen breakwater in the lake. The Namens were advised by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the Flathead Agency BIA to cease construction. However, the Namens ignored them and continued construction under a state issued permit. When completed, the facility extended north into Flathead Lake approximately 384 feet with an east wing approximately 200-foot. The base was approximately 30 feet wide with a 15-foot top.

August 1973, the C.S.&K.T. initiated litigation against the Namens in Federal District Court of Montana. The Tribes sought declaratory and injunctive relief against the Namens for allegedly trespassing on Tribal lands by building and maintaining their docks, breakwater, and storage   shed. The district court granted partial summary judgment for the defendants in August, 1974. The district court held that: (1) The Namens title extends only to the high-water mark; (2) The bed and banks of the south half of Flathead Lake are held by the United States in trust for the Tribes; but (3) the Namens' title includes the federal common law rights of access and wharf age out to navigable water.

July 1977, the Tribes enacted, with the Secretary of the Interior approval,  "The Shoreline Protection Ordinance" (Ordinance 64A), aimed at regulating riparian structures along the south half of Flathead Lake.
December 1977, the United States, as trustee for the Tribes, filed a separate lawsuit against the City of Polson and the State of Montana, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Flathead Reservation had not been terminated and that the Tribes had authority to regulate use of the bed and banks of the south half of the lake.
April 8, 1980, the district court issued its written opinion reaffirming the conclusion it had reached in Namen I - particularly, that the United States held title to the southern portion of Flathead Lake bed in trust for the Tribes and additionally held that: (1) There had been no diminishment or termination of the Reservation: but (2) that the Tribes had no authority to regulate the riparian rights of the Namens, Polson, and Montana.
January, 1982, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, determined that the Flathead Tribes do have the authority to apply ordinance 64A (revised) regulating the riparian rights of non-members owning land within the Flathead Reservation.

March, 1983, the Shoreline Protection Office was established consisting of an administrator and 2 field technicians and a compliance officer, with the seven member Board. The Boards first priority was to establish the rules and regulations for Ordinance 64A (Revised) for the south half of Flathead Lake. Once this was done it was required that all riparian landowners register their riparian structures with the Shoreline Protection Office within the six months of enactment of Ordinance 64A (Revised). This period was extended to July, 1984, due to the residents outside of our area not knowing or understanding the requirements and the time needed for public comments. At present the Shoreline Office has achieved 100% compliance with registration of all structures on the south half of Flathead Lake.
The Aquatic Lands Conservation Ordinance 87A (ALCO) was approved by the Secretary of the Interior, March 1, 1987, as a valid exercise of Tribal civil regulatory jurisdiction over all other natural water courses and wetlands on the Reservation not including the south half of Flathead Lake. The Shoreline Protection Office as well as the shoreline board were made responsible for implementation of Ordinance 87A (ALCO).

Road development, home construction, and agricultural practices are often concentrated along shoreline areas. As a result, erosion, storm water runoff, and bank destabilization can occur, seriously compromising water quality and habitat integrity. The Shoreline Protection program was created to provide technical assistance and project review for such project though the implementation of the tribal ordinances protecting shorelines, water quality, and personal property.

Mission Statement: "to enforce and administer Ordinances 64A (revised) and 87A through the Shoreline Protection Board and Department of Natural Resoruces on the Reservation waters, with the goal of maintaining a clean environment for the protection of fish and wildlife, while maintaining prositive public relations."

Available Documents

64A Revised Application