Tester legislation protects aging water infrastructure

Senator wants to put St. Mary’s rehabilitation high on priority list

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today threw his support behind a measure he cosponsored that would help protect Montana's aging water infrastructure.

Tester highlighted the benefits of The Aging Water Infrastructure and Maintenance Act during a Senate Energy Committee hearing this afternoon.

The Aging Water Infrastructure and Maintenance Act would fund detailed inspections of water infrastructure owned by the Bureau of Reclamation, such as the St. Mary Canal in northern Montana.  The Bureau of Reclamation already inspects the dams it owns on a regular basis.

"Infrastructure in rural America is wearing out and it's wearing thin, and this puts the focus on what our country really needs to prioritize right now," Tester said.  "When it comes to water, we're talking about infrastructure that affects all Americans."

Tester noted that much of the water infrastructure in the American West is already older than its intended lifespan.  He said the 85-year old St. Mary Canal, which diverts water from the St. Mary River to communities and farmland along the Hi-Line, is in desperate need of repair.

The Aging Water Infrastructure and Maintenance Act also:

  • Allows the federal government to pay up to 65% of the cost of upgrading facilities in need of repair (the current federal cost share for maintenance on projects like St. Mary's is 0%). 
  • Requires the Secretary of Energy to review inspections every three years. 
  • Directs the Secretary of Energy to develop a schedule for regular maintenance of facilities. 
  • Establishes a national priorities list of project facilities that need the most urgent maintenance.

Tester said he will work hard with his colleagues on the Energy Committee to put the rehabilitation of the St. Mary Canal high on the priority list.

The Aging Water Infrastructure and Maintenance Act is S. 2842.  It is cosponsored by Senators Harry Reid, D-Nev., Ken Salazar, D-Colo., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.