By Matt McCann
I write this week to bring some understanding of the legislative process and the issues that I believe are of importance to Montanans.
First, there is a joint hearing of the House and Senate Natural Resource Committees to hear and understand the Fort Belknap Water Rights Compact. After reviewing the Compact again with the Department of Natural Resources, I believe we are ready to proceed. The Compact is the most important bill of the session to my district, as well as the districts east of House District 92 in the Milk River Basin. I described the Compact in general terms in the Journal two months ago, so I will not repeat myself with the exception of one comment: The Compact contains the negotiated justified right of allotment of water for the community of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
The Compact Commission, the Department of Natural Resources, the Tribe, the Federal Government and the seven irrigation districts all have participated to anticipate and provide for mitigation to offset a developed water right by Fort Belknap. The Fort Belknap Water Right Compact is built on the premise of reason. The hearing is Wednesday, March 14 at 3 p.m. in the Capitol, Room 317.
The Long Range Committee has finished their work in HB 5 and HB 14. HB 5 and HB 14 are the major maintenance and new construction bills for the state of Montana for infrastructure. There is some news that pertains to the Hi-Line. Montana State University-Northern may be able to build a new structure for technology if the college can raise private donations to match the state obligation. The experiment stations in Montana received the same authority, as well, to renovate, repair and construct structures that are needed, to the tune of $2 million.
The process is a long way from being completed in the legislature, and I'm hoping that the projects will stay intact. There are a number of political side shows happening, so one never knows what the end result will be to HB 5 and HB 14 until the last day.
The Long Range Committee was able to consider these projects, as well as fund a maintenance program fully. On occasion, a constituent gives me a piece of their mind, and so it was that Ol' Joe Nemes pointed out the importance of taking care of what we already have.
As well in HB 5, is a directive for conservation easements to be offered in terms of years, rather than perpetual (forever), as an option. Another constituent from the Big Flat by the name of Miles Hutton contributed to HB 5 in his concern regarding forever' easements. I do believe that the language in HB 5 will be controversial and Fish Wildlife and Parks does not like it. I have concerns that forever' agreements are not appropriate as the only option for conservation easements.
I have had conversation with constituents regarding deregulation of electricity. I will write on the subject when the House of Representatives starts processing the bills.
Rep. Matt McCann
House District 92