Hi-Line Today: St. Mary’s System to Receive Up to $100 Million from Infrastructure Bill

by Josh Margolis

The St. Mary’s system is set to receive up to $100 million in funding.

This comes as the bipartisan infrastructure bill cleared the U.S. House of Congress on Friday evening, sending it to President Joe Biden’s desk.

Marko Manoukian, Co-Chair of the St. Mary’s Rehabilitation Working Group, says this boost of funding will be critical to repairing the century-old system and is non-reimbursable.

“(This) is key for the beneficiaries, (and will) be used on the project. In fact, the legislation doesn’t specify which component we could work on, it just says that it can be used on the project. So, it’s the infusion of a large non-reimbursable appropriation that we’ve been looking for.”

Manoukian says most of the $100 million will likely be used to fix the Diversion Dam at the head of the canal.

“Due to the legal challenge that we face with the bull trout, I think it is going to go principally towards the diversion structure. And the costs on those have really escalated. We used to talk about a $40 million number, construction costs only, (that’s) more like $63 million today. And with the non-construction costs, that could be closer to $80 million. So that’s where a lot of the money is going to go. I’m hopeful that we could get a siphon out of this $100 million as well.”

Senator Jon Tester was part of the bipartisan Senate group that negotiated the bill. The rest of Montana’s Congressional delegation, Senator Steve Daines and Representative Matt Rosendale, have expressed support for funding the system but voted against the package, arguing it will make increased inflation worse and add to the national debt.