Senate Oks local water projects funding
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Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
Some major funding for water projects in north-central Montana passed the Senate Thursday and now needs to be reconciled with a House bill in a conference committee. Montana's Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester announced in a joint release that the Senate passed the Water and Energy Appropriations Act, which includes more than $77 million for Montana including money for the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie Rural Water System, the Rocky Boy-North Central Montana Regional Water System and the rehabilitation of the St. Mary Diversion on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. “This is an investment in Montana's clean water and renewable energy development,” said Tester, who secured Montana's funding as a member of the E n e r g y a n d Wa t e r Appropriations Subcommittee. “Upgrading our water infrastructure and developing renewable energy technologies will pay off for generations. These are exactly the kinds of projects I'm proud to support, and I'll vote for them every step of the way." “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 wi th Te s t e r in s e cur ing 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 money is a significant boost to the projects, which have received little funding in recent years. Baucus, Tester and Montana's Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg have worked to add money for the projects, which received no funding in the budgets proposed by then- President George W. Bush. The money for the Rocky Boy-North Central Montana project, $16 million, is nearly triple what it has received in past appropriations while the project leaders have requested $42 million a year in each to the last few years, they have been receiving $5 million $9 million, the amount for the current fiscal year. The project did receive a boost through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act passed by Congress in February. $20 million was authorized for the water project through that act. Rehberg announced in July that he was contacting the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which is overseeing the funds, to try to speed up the money being released to work on the project. The water system, authorized by Congress in 2002, will provide treated water taken from Lade Elwell at Tiber Dam to nearly 30,000 people on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and in communities from Loma to Havre and the North Havre Rural Water District and to the west. The Senate bill provides the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie system, a similar project that will provide water to people on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and communities in the region off of the reservation with $14 million. The project to rehabilitate the St. Mary Diversion received a $4 million appropriation. That project will redesign and rebuild 29-miles worth of canals, dikes and enormous siphons that transport water from the St. Mary River to the Milk River. The diversion, which has been patched together for decades at the direct expense of its users, primarily Milk River Valley irrigators, provides as much as half the water flowing through the Milk River in normal years. During drought years, the diversion has supplied more than 90 percent of the water in the river. The system, designed as part of the Bureau of Reclamation's Milk River irrigation project, also supplies water to communities including Havre and the North Havre Rural Water District, Chinook and Harlem, and provides recreat ional opportunities from Fresno Reservoir west of Havre down the Milk River to the Missouri River.