A bill written and sponsored by Montana’s U. S. senators to provide money for rural water projects came up in discussion during a meeting presenting plans for a treatment plant that would supply water to some 30,000 people in north-central Montana.
The meeting Tuesday in Chester presented draft plans for the water treatment plant that will be built at Tiber Reservoir as part of the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water System.
Deon Stockert of Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services said finding funding for the construction of the first part of the plant — more than $48 million — is a top priority. The team working on the water system is in close contact with the members of Montana’s congressional delegation, he said.
“We do need a big chunk for that water plant, and we are working very hard, ” trying to get that funding, he said.
Stockert said Baucus’ bill, the Rural Water Completion Act, could be a major component in finding that funding.
Baucus sponsored the bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and seven other senators, to take $80 million a year that goes into the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation’s reclamation fund and put it into a fund to be used for authorized rural water projects.
The money would come from federal oil and gas royalties and proceeds from sale of power from federal hydroelectric dams that goes into the reclamation fund, generally $1 billion to $2 billion a year.
Baucus and the bill’s co-sponsors are continuing to work on moving the bill forward.
“Montana jobs and our rural way of life depend on a safe and adequate water supply, ” Baucus told the Havre Daily News Monday. “We need it for our families, our small businesses and our livelihoods.
“I've introduced a bill that will lower the overall cost of clean water infrastructure projects like the Rocky Boy's/North Central Montana Regional Water System, ” he added, “We don't have a lot of extra money floating around which is why we ought to be looking for ways to cut down on costs without cutting out the essentials — like clean water. ”
Tester said Tuesday that he will continue to support the Rocky Boy’s/North Central project and other rural water systems, and is looking forward to seeing the north-central Montana project move to its next phase.
“Upgrading our water infrastructure creates jobs and improves local economies by delivering clean water to our rural communities, ” he said. “I've supported this smart investment for years because it will improve the quality of life across north-central Montana for generations. ”
Rehberg said Tuesday the project is a good project he will continue to support.
“For an arid state like Montana, water is all the difference, and clean drinking water is among the most valuable resources we have, ” he said.
Rehberg said he is tracking Baucus’ bill in the Senate, while working in the House to bolster support for a workable solution.
“The sooner we get this project completed, the better off the users and the American taxpayers will be, ” he said.
Mary Heller, general manager of the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority, urged people to write letters in support of the project in general.
“If you want to be actively involved, write letters to the editor, write letters to Senator Baucus, Tester, Rehberg, our state government to support what we’re trying to do here, ” she said.