Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Rehabilitate Critical Hi-Line Water Infrastructure

by Courtney Kibblewhite

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, along with Congressman Matt Rosendale, are today introducing a bipartisan bill to make rehabilitating the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam more affordable, and ensure the Milk River Project can continue providing water to farmers, ranchers, and Tribes in Northcentral Montana that depend on it.

The St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act will authorize $52 million to rehabilitate the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam, part of Bureau of Reclamation’s (BoR) Milk River Project in northcentral Montana, and require the BoR to use an ability-to-pay study on what the current water users could afford to pay for the project and set the cost share for the rehabilitation based on that study.

“Water is life, and without the Milk River Project it would be in short supply for folks who live and work on the Hi-Line,” Tester said. “This bill will help ensure a reliable source of water, and rehabilitate a critical piece of water infrastructure without breaking the bank for irrigators on the system. I will keep pushing to ensure the entire Milk River Project is rehabilitated, so water users on the Hi-Line can count on having access to the water they need to survive for years to come.”

“Farmers and ranchers’ livelihoods in northern Montana depend on the St. Mary’s Milk River System and after serving the Hi-Line for over a century, it’s past time for an upgrade,” Daines said. “The collapse of the drop structure last summer illustrated the urgency in getting this project the funding it needs. We came together to fix the drop structure last summer, and we will come together to get this bill across the finish line.”

“As a main source of water for drinking, irrigation, and recreational activities, I am happy to have introduced legislation in the House to help repair the St. Mary’s Canal,” Rosendale said. “This is long overdue and I look forward to providing reliable access for water users in the region.

Tester authored and introduced the bill, with Daines joining as an original cosponsor. Congressman Rosendale introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.

The Milk River Project provides water to 18,000 Montanans and irrigates enough cropland to feed one million people.

The text of the Senators’ legislation is available HERE.



Picture Courtesy of  Milk River Watershed Alliance

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