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Apr 20, 2021

Tester, Daines Call for Hearing on St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act

Senators: “Without a significant federal investment, Montana’s agricultural economy, tribal communities, and towns are at risk of losing access to their water.”

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are calling on the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) to hold a hearing on their St. Mary's Reinvestment Act to make rehabilitating the St. Mary's Diversion Dam more affordable.

In a letter to ENR Chair Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Ranking Member Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tester and Daines said the project is critical to ensuring the Milk River Project can continue providing water to farmers, ranchers, and Tribes in Northcentral Montana that depend on it.

"The St. Mary's Diversion Dam is the headworks of the Milk River Project, diverting water from the St. Mary's River near Glacier National Park into the Milk River," the Senators wrote.. "...This truly is the lifeblood of Montana's Hi-Line, and this legislation is the critical next step to revitalizing this century-old water infrastructure project."

The St. Mary's Reinvestment Act will authorize $52 million to rehabilitate the St. Mary's Diversion Dam, part of Bureau of Reclamation's (BoR) Milk River Project in Northcentral Montana, and require the BoR to use an ability-to-pay study on what the current water users could afford to pay for the project and set the cost share for the rehabilitation based on that study.

Currently, water users on the Milk River Project cover 74 percent of operations and maintenance costs, but that funding structure is unsustainable for the hundreds of millions of dollars in needed rehabilitation across the project.

"Last year, a catastrophic failure at the drop structures downstream of the Diversion Dam underscored the pressing need to invest in this infrastructure," the Senators continued. "Without a significant federal investment, Montana's agricultural economy, tribal communities, and towns are at risk of losing access to their water."

Tester agreed to introduce the St. Mary's Reinvestment Act at the urging of the St. Mary's working group last month, with Daines joining the legislation as an original cosponsor. Congressman Matt Rosendale introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.

The Milk River Project provides water to 18,000 Montanans and irrigates enough cropland to feed one million people.

Text of the St. Mary's Reinvestment Act is available HERE, and the Senators' letter is available HERE.


Office Contact Information

Senator Tester's Montana staff serves the state from offices in Billings, Bozeman, Butte, Great Falls, Helena, Kalispell, and Missoula. Please bring your concerns with federal agencies, academy nominations, and other situations to one of these Montana offices.


Judge Jameson Federal Building
2900 4th Ave N, Suite 201
Billings, MT 59101
Phone: (406) 252-0550
Fax: (406) 252-7768


Avant Courier Building
1 E Main Street, Suite 202
Bozeman, MT 59715
Phone: (406) 586-4450
Fax: (406) 586-7647


Silver Bow Center
125 W Granite, Suite 200
Butte, MT 59701
Phone: (406) 723-3277
Fax: (406) 782-4717

Great Falls

119 1st Avenue N, Suite 102
Great Falls, MT 59401
Phone: (406) 452-9585
Fax: (406) 452-9586


208 North Montana Avenue
Suite 104
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: (406) 449-5401
Fax: (406) 449-5462


8 Third Street E
Kalispell, MT 59901
Phone: (406) 257-3360
Fax: (406) 257-3974


130 W Front St.
Missoula, MT 59802
Phone: (406) 728-3003
Fax: (406) 728-2193

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