Senate committee approves funding for water projects
July 13, 2009
Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
Local water projects received approval for funding in a bill sent to the floor of the U.S. Senate for debate last week, Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Montana democrats, said in a press release. The S ena t e Ap p ro p r i a t i ons Committee Friday in the Senate's Energy and Water Appropriations bill approved $16 million in funding for the Rocky Boy's - No r th Cent ral Montana Regional Water System and $4 million for the rehabilitation of t h e S t . Ma r y Diversion. When completed, the regional water system will provide water for 30,000 people in n o r t h - c e n t r a l Montana. The system will serve communities from Big Sandy to Havre and west, as well as providing water to the residents of Rocky Boy ' s I n d i a n Reservation. The St. Mary project was established to rehabilitate the diversion system, construction of which was authorized in 1903, that supplies much of the water flowing through the Milk River each year. “This is an investment in Montana's clean water and renewable energy development,” said Tester, a member of the energy and water subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee to which he was appointed this year. “Upgrading our water infrastructure will pay off for generations, just like developing renewable energy technologies will also pay off for generations. I'm proud to support these projects.” “These are great projects for Montana. This is a lot of money for worthwhile projects that will make a real difference for folks,” said Baucus, who worked closely with Tester in securing Montana's funding. “I'll always do my part to make sure essential projects get funding so that Montanans can have access to clean water.” The bill now will go to the full Senate for debate, and then will have to be approved in the House of Representatives before it can go to the president for his signature, the two senators said in the release. The bill also includes $14 million in funding for the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie Rural Water System, which will provide water to Montanans on and off t h e Fo r t Pe c k I n d i a n Reservation, and $2.25 million for the Bio-Energy Innovation and Testing Center at Montana State University-Northern for its research in alternative energy. Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development Corp., who is coordinating work on the North- Central Regional Water System, said the $16 million would be a good step up for the project, especially after the project was approved to receive a $20 million boost through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act earlier this year. “The ARRA money gave us a nice boost, in essence to bring us closer to where we needed to be. This (Fiscal Year 2010) money will help us keep the project moving,” she said. The project was authorized in 2002, but has received little in funding. Robinson said the project never was funded in the budgets proposed by President George W. Bush, and what it did receive was added by the members of Montana's congressional delegation. While the project has been requesting $42 million in each of the last few years, Montana's senators and Rep. Denny Rehberg have only been able to add $5 to $10 million each year. The funding for this fiscal year ended up at $9 million. Robinson said what will be done with the $16 million, if that amount survives the debates in the Senate and House, is not known as yet. The regional water authority and the representatives of Rocky Boy will decide how to use the funds once they are approved. Rocky Boy and the North Ce n t ra l Re g i o n a l Wa t e r Authority have been using most of the funds in past years to provide systems linking areas with limited water supplies to water treatment plants that can provide water. The systems will be hooked into the regional water system once its water treatment plant is complete and the central distribution lines complete.