Larry Kline Havre Daily News email@example.com
The head of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee has agreed to chair a field hearing in Havre on a bill that would require the federal government to pay for repairs to the ailing St. Mary diversion. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., agreed to hold the hearing, set for Sept. 1, at the request of Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont., a press release said. A spokesman for Burns today said his office is trying to schedule other members of the committee, of which Burns is a member, to attend the hearing. Burns will attend, and U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg also has been invited, he said. “This is an important step in advancing this legislation,” spokesman Matt Mackowiak said. The announcement comes on the heels of an announcement from Rehberg’s office of a House Resources Committee field hearing to be held in Havre on Sept. 16. St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group executive director Larry Mires today the advisory board is excited about having these hearings in Montana, instead in Washington, D.C. “The working group members have worked darn hard to get this project to this stage,” Mires said. “We’re excited with the opportunity to have Sen. Domenici to come to Montana, to have a field hearing here, and have local people be a part of the process.”
Burns and U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., have cosponsored a bill that would recognize the St. Mary diversion facilities, which were built as an irrigation project almost a century ago, as a multi-purpose facility with benefits to irrigation, flood control, and wildlife habitat. The legislation also would shift the burden of repairing the 29-mile system of canals, steel pipes and concrete water drops to the federal government. Under current law, irrigators must foot the bill, which is estimated to top $170 million. Rehberg sponsored an identical bill in the House. Mackowiak said testimony at the field hearing will be by invitation only, but written testimony will be accepted at the meeting’s conclusion. Residents who have questions about the hearing or about written testimony are asked to call Heather Stefanik or Sarah Converse, both Burns staffers, at (800) 344-1513.