U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont ., passed a bill out of the House Tuesday that would add another dimension to a hundred-year-old project in north-central Montana — adding hydropower generation to the Milk River Project.
Daines’ bill, H.R. 1963, the Bureau of Reclamation Conduit Hydropower Development Equity and Jobs Act, removes prohibitions from irrigation districts in Montana and other western states from developing hydropower on Bureau of Reclamation canals, ditches, and conduits. It passed from the House without opposition Tuesday.
“Hydropower is a clean, renewable source of energy, and finding innovative ways to develop this resource is an area where most of us can agree,” Daines said on the floor of the House Tuesday while introducing his bill. “With my legislation, our irrigation systems can also power our homes and businesses. Additionally, this bill will help provide revenues to improve critical infrastructure for farmers and ranchers who rely on these systems.”
Four of the 11 projects impacted by Daines’ bill, including the Milk River Project, are in Montana, a press release from his office said.
The topic of allowing hydropower generation on BOR canals has come up at meetings of the St. Mary Diversion Working Group, which is trying to find funding to repair and rehabilitate the diversion.
That system of canals, dikes and siphons on
the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, part of the Milk River irrigation project, was one of the first projects authorized after the creation of the BOR. The antiquated system has been deemed in dire need of repair after decades of being patched back together.
The idea of the Blackfeet Nation building hydropower facilities on the diversion and of local irrigation authorities doing the same on BOR facilities in the Milk River Valley has been raised and supported at working group meetings over the past few years.
Daines’ bill has received strong support and consensus from Montana irrigation districts and ag groups, as well as the Obama administration, which also expressed its support for Daines’ bill during a May 2013 hearing, his release said.
“Balancing energy development with responsible stewardship of our resources is the way we do business in Montana,” Daines said on the House floor. “A diverse energy portfolio helps keep electricity prices low for Montana families and creates jobs. Hydropower is an important part of that puzzle. And my bill will help us get there.”