Tester, Daines team up on water bills

by Rob Chaney, Missoulian

Montana’s Senate delegation teamed up on two bills affecting the state’s water in very different ways.

On Thursday, Democrat Jon Tester and Republican Steve Daines introduced legislation to extend the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licenses for Gibson Dam Hydro Project near Augusta and the Clark Canyon Dam Hydro Project near Dillon. They also co-sponsored a bill to designate 20 miles of East Rosebud Creek as a federal Wild and Scenic River.

Gibson Dam on the Sun River provides both electricity and irrigation, as well as about $500,000 in tax revenues for Teton and Lewis and Clark counties. The Clark Canyon Dam would produce about $611,000 in state and federal taxes in its first five years of operation, along with $37,000 in local property tax payments. Gibson Dam seeks a six-year FERC license extension and Gibson Dam seeks a three-year extension.

The East Rosebud Creek bill would be Montana’s first Wild and Scenic River designation in almost 40 years. It covers portions of the creek that run through U.S. Forest Service land from the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the prairie.

‘We greatly appreciate Senators Tester and Daines bipartisan work to protect the East Rosebud Creek,” Leslie Ziegler, president of Friends of East Rosebud, said in an email. “This area is a special place where many Montanans have chosen to live and raise our families – some folks have been here for generations. The East Rosebud attracts visitors from all over the world, yielding significant economic value to surrounding communities and our state. This bill will ensure the East Rosebud stays a special place for generations to come.”