Legislative Efforts Coming in Waves to Support Milk River Project Rehabilitation
Last updated 3/17/2021 at 9:39am
As we approach the one-year anniversary of the collapse of Drop Structure #5 of the St. Mary’s Diversion, the spotlight remains on the unaffordability of critical repairs to the Milk River Project’s aged infrastructure. From Montana’s irrigators and farmers, ranchers, recreationists, and municipalities that span from Tribal Nations to Canada, the call for affordable repairs are continuing to grow. Not only are construction costs into the hundreds of millions of dollars, Montana’s irrigators alone are responsible for 74% of those costs. It doesn’t take much thought to realize the money is not there, which is why repairs have been looming and unattainable. Without the St. Mary Diversion alone, the Milk River would potentially run dry six of every ten years. Consider the magnitude of this system.
House Joint Resolution No. 7 was introduced by Rep. Casey Knudsen of Malta in February and has soared through the Montana Legislature. This Resolution calls on the Federal Government to adjust the current funding allocation to ensure affordability, and ultimately infrastructure rehabilitation. With strong support from Conservation Districts, sportsmen and wildlife advocates, bankers, farmers and numerous governmental agencies, H.J. No. 7 is just one collaborative effort between stakeholders to make change. H.J. No. 7 has now passed through the assigned Senate Committee and will soon be heard on the Senate floor.
Additionally, Sen. Jon Tester, Sen. Steve Daines and Rep. Matt Rosendale have recently reintroduced federal legislation to not only provide $52 million in contribution to repairs, but to also reassess the 74/26 cost-share between irrigators and the Bureau of Reclamation, respectively. While efforts like this have been tried before without success, the failure at St. Mary’s has demonstrated that complete disaster is a stark reality for those along the Hi-Line, and therefore needs immediate consideration and action.
Please consider sending a “thank you” to both state legislators that have supported H.J. No. 7 and the members of Montana’s congressional delegation for their renewed support for federal funding. Slowly but surely, we will see the rehabilitation of the Milk River Project.
The Milk River Watershed Alliance is a locally led organization working together to preserve, protect, and enhance natural resources within the Milk River Watershed while maintaining the quality of life. To learn more, please visit http://milkrivermt.org .