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Judge recommends sending Montana dam dispute to state court



HELENA (AP) – A magistrate judge is recommending that a dispute over who owns the riverbeds beneath eight hydroelectric dams and a storage reservoir in Montana stay in state court.

If U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen approves the recommendations, the 14-year-old case will return to a court that previously ruled in favor of the state over PPL Montana, now Talen Montana.

The state claims it owns the riverbeds beneath the dams on the Missouri, Madison and Clark Fork rivers. Ownership would entitle the state to payments for use of the land.

The state owns the riverbeds on waterways that were navigable in 1889. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 overturned a Montana Supreme Court ruling that those waterways are navigable.

The state re-filed its claim last year. NorthWestern Energy, which now owns the dams, sought to move the case to federal court.

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