Montana’s junior senator and its sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives are on opposite ends of the table regarding the decision to close the Port of Whitetail in Daniels County.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Tuesday it will begin the process of closing the port, which was in the middle of an $8.5 million upgrade.
Canada announced last month it was closing its side of the port, which averages five vehicles passing through a day, next spring.
Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, held a meeting in Daniels County to collect public input about the port. After Canada said it would not reconsider its closure, he recommended to Customs and Border Protection closing the U.S. side.
Rehberg has been critical of the plan to upgrade the little-used port and demanded the project be stopped after the Canadians announced they would close their side.
“This is one more example of politicians shooting from the hip when it comes to wasting stimulus dollars on projects that weren’t properly vetted or monitored,” he said in a statement released Tuesday. “No one bothered to investigate the Whitetail Port or talk to the Canadians before deciding it was worth millions to fix it up.
“While I’m glad that CBP heeded my demands to stop wasting this money, I think the taxpayers in Montana would have preferred that these kinds of decisions had been made before more than a million unrecoverable stimulus dollars were put into it in the first place,” he added.
But Tester said in his release that if the port were kept open it had to be upgraded. The days of closing a border port by putting up three red cones are long gone, he said.
He also had “sharp words for politicians ‘who are shooting from the hip’ on the Port of Whitetail issue,” his release said.
“We’ve got some politicians telling us that ‘virtually no one wants or needs’ the Port of Whitetail, and that’s very clearly not true,” Tester said. “And I invite anyone who believes rural Montana is ‘nowhere’ to come visit, or at least spend more time understanding the very real security threats we face at America’s remote border crossings.
“Our homeland security and the strength of America’s ports of entry are far too serious for reckless sound bites and partisan haymaking,” he said.