Key Senate Committee Advances Tester Water Infrastructure Projects Totaling More than $300 Million for Montana, Including St. Mary’s
Senator spearheaded inclusion of projects in negotiation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework that will fund more than $300 million in Montana water projects;
The Energy and Natural Resources Committee today advanced more than $300 million in Montana-specific water projects secured by U.S. Senator Jon Tester as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework he recently negotiated with a group of his Republican and Democratic colleagues and the White House. Tester is a member of the core negotiation group along with Republican Senators Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Rob Portman, and Mitt Romney, and Democratic Senators Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, Jeanne Shaheen, and Mark Warner.
The $311 million Tester spearheaded will help secure water supplies for more than 65,000 people, support agricultural producers and economic development with better water availability, respond to increasingly scarce water with better efficiency and storage systems, and honor the federal government’s trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Country. Up to $100 million of that funding will go towards rehabilitating the Milk River Project, which will directly rehabilitate the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam and avert more failures like the drop structures last summer, while improving efficiency and reliability of the overall system.
“When it comes to Montana’s water infrastructure, we’ve been running on our grandparents’ infrastructure for decades—and Congress finally has a shot to do something about it,” Tester said. “Today is the first major step in advancing critical Montana water infrastructure priorities like the Milk River Project that will have an enormous impact on our state’s economy for decades to come. I’m proud to have led negotiations on the framework for this once-in-a-century infrastructure package that has brought together Republicans and Democrats alike to invest in our workers, businesses, and communities. It’s great news that water infrastructure is the first of our priorities to advance out of committee, as we continue working on needed investments in our roads and bridges, airports and railways, broadband and more, to ensure we maintain America's competitive edge over China."
Tester’s provisions that were approved by the Committee and head to the full Senate today include:
$211 million for Montana’s authorized rural water projects:
- This would complete the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie, Rocky Boys/North Central, and Musselshell-Judith rural water projects.
- This would secure water supplies for over 65,000 people, supporting agricultural producers and economic development with better water availability, responding to increasingly scarce water with better efficiency and storage systems, and honoring our trust and treaty responsibilities to Indian Country. Up to $100 million in dedicated funding to rehabilitate the Milk River Project.
- This would directly help rehabilitate the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam and avert more failures like the drop structures last summer, while improving efficiency and reliability of the overall system.
- This funding would be available without needing a 3:1 nonfederal match, which is normally required for rehabilitation work on the Milk River Project.
- The Milk River Project irrigates over 120,000 acres and provides water to four municipalities, two rural water systems, and two Tribes.
Allow American Rescue Plan (ARP) money secured by Tester to be spent on the local costshare requirements for Reclamation infrastructure.
- This provides a legislative fix clarifying that states can spend their State and Local Recovery Funds on the local costshare for Bureau of Reclamation infrastructure (critical for infrastructure like the Milk River Project, which has a 74 percent nonfederal costshare requirement).
- This builds on a call from Tester to Treasury calling for them to include this in their Final Rule for how ARP funds can be used.
After a meeting at the White House with President Joe Biden and a bipartisan group of 10 Senators, Tester announced the group struck a deal on a once-in-a-century infrastructure package that will make critical investments in Montana's aging infrastructure. Over the last few weeks, Tester led the negotiations between Republicans, Democrats, and the Biden Administration that resulted in the agreement.
Now that the landmark bipartisan framework has been agreed to, Senator Tester will continue leading his colleagues as they negotiate the details of the package and work with relevant Senate committees like Energy and Natural Resources to assemble the legislation. Once a bill has been formally drafted, it will be put on the floor for a vote, and congressional leaders have expressed hope that a Senate floor vote will take place before the August recess. After Senate passage, the legislation must be passed by the House before being signed into law by the President.