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By Alex Ross 

Daines, Tester re-introduce rural water bill

 

Courtesy photo

Steve Daines

Montana's U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines reintroduced a bill Thursday to provide a guaranteed annual fund of $80 million over 20 years for rural water projects including the Rocky Boy's-North Central Regional Water System and allow the reservation to purchase a new water storage tank.   

A joint press release from the senators said the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act would immediately make funds available to two authorized water projects in Montana, including the project which will serve people on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and water systems as well as communities in Chouteau, Hill, Glacier, Pondera, Teton and Toole counties, and the Fort Peck Dry Prairie Rural Water Systems Project.

The release said the two projects would provide 35,000 Montanans with access to drinking water.

"Water is the basic need for Montana families, farmers and ranchers," Daines said in the release. "We need to ensure that all Montanans have access to a reliable water supply, especially for our rural communities that are too often overlooked."

"Reliable access to clean water is critical to every Montana family," Tester said. "This bipartisan bill will invest in essential infrastructure, provide a boost to rural communities and create good paying jobs."

Dave Kuntz, a spokesperson for Tester, said the legislation was first introduced in 2011 by then-Sen. Max Baucus, and Thursday marked the fourth time the legislation was introduced.

It would use money from the Bureau of Land Management's Reclamation Fund for water projects throughout the country. The fund uses revenues from onshore oil and gas development for infrastructure projects.

The Rocky Boy's-North-Central Montana Regional Water System was authorized in 2000.

Chippewa Cree Tribal Chairman Harlan Baker applauded the reintroduction of the bill.

Courtesy photo

Jon Tester

"Access to clean drinking water is a critical component to life, for both tribal and nontribal communities," Baker said in the release. "With the reintroduction of the Rural Water Projects Completion Act, this is a significant step toward the protection of public health and prosperity of rural America including Indian Country."

Baker said in the release that because of inadequate federal funding to complete the project, the tribe has to continue to respond to water emergencies caused by the reservation's aging water infrastructure.

Last week, dry conditions and low water levels prompted the reservation to issue restrictions on outdoor water use.

Last December low water pressure, reduced water tank storage levels and pipe breaks left 1,500 to 2,000 people on the reservation without access to water.

 

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