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St. Mary group tries to trigger $10 million bond authority

 

January 29, 2019



Press release

The St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group met Jan. 16 in Havre to discuss the repairing of the 100-year-old facility that diverts water from the St. Mary River into the Milk River.

The SMRWG discussed the upcoming legislative session. Right now, the state is short of funding. In the past the Coal Trust Fund had yielded large volumes of revenue to address infrastructure need in the state. Now coal revenue is greatly reduced, and the state is looking for other streams of revenue.

At this time the SMRWG did not see how it could find more money to operate. For now, the group will be using the remainder of the grant that was awarded in 2017.

Bill LC0049 in the Montana Legislature would be a bonding bill for infrastructure needs in the state. Lawmakers have proposed to increase the bonding authority from $10 to $15 million for St. Mary/Milk River project. Additionally, a bill place holder exists to see if there could be language included in the old Department of Natural Resource cost share language to included that local contract holders in addition to the Federal Government could be qualified as the cost share recipients. This would create the dynamic to have either federal or local dollars trigger a cost share and thus release the bonding authority by the state.

In congressional reports a staff member of Sen. Jon Tester’s office indicated that the senator is willing to submit a bill that would increase the federal cost share from 26 percent of the project to 75 percent of the project. The SMRWG recommended that he resubmit the bill and that it includes St. Mary Diversion and Conveyance assets along with Fresno and Nelson Reservoirs. It was noted that both Montana senators hold positions on the Senate Appropriations Committee and Senator Steve Daines is also on the Senate Finance Committee.

In other business, the SMRWG sent in $3,000 membership dues to Montana Water Resources. This membership includes affiliation with National Water Resources as well. SMRWG will get support at the state level and national level with the membership.

 

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