Tester pushes to open Montana port 24-hours a day

Expanding Port of Wild Horse will boost economy, security

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana's Port of Wild Horse would become a round-the-clock, commercial port of entry, under new legislation announced today by Senator Jon Tester.

Tester's legislation directs U.S. Customs and Border Protection to maintain the Port of Wild Horse, on the Canadian border about 45 miles northwest of Havre, 24 hours a day.

"American trade with Alberta is growing at a rapid rate," Tester said during a speech on the Senate floor this morning. "Excluding pipeline shipments, Alberta's exports to the U.S. have grown 86% over the last decade.  America's exports to Alberta have increased 75%."

Montana currently has only one 24-hour port of entry—the Port of Sweet Grass north of Shelby.  Tester noted that the U.S. sells $12.5 billion worth of goods to Alberta every year.  Most of those goods enter Alberta through only five ports of entry on the Montana border.

Tester today also highlighted the need for another 24-hour port of entry as Alberta develops its Oil Sands region, which will require heavy machinery to cross the border.  And there are secondary benefits too, including new housing construction jobs, a bigger tax base, more security agents on the border and more visitors to boost Havre's economy, Tester noted.

Tester and his staff have been following the border issue closely since the beginning of the year.  There are several studies currently underway examining the possibility of a second 24-hour port.  Tester felt moving forward with his legislation now will shed more light on the issue and allow more time to address staffing challenges within the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

"I have tried in my short time in the Senate to highlight and address these challenges," Tester said in his floor speech today.  "But the cost of ignoring economic growth in Alberta and the border crossing needs in that region would be harmful to Montana's economy and to our nation's economy."

Because Tester's legislation deals with trade, it will likely be referred to the Senate Finance Committee, which is chaired by Montana's senior U.S. senator, Max Baucus.

"This is a good, smart piece of legislation that will bring more jobs and opportunity to Montana," Baucus said. "Jon has worked very closely with the folks in Havre to make it happen, and I look forward to pushing his measure through the Finance Committee and on to the full Senate."