Tester, Walsh introduce bill to create jobs, clean up Montana waterways

Senators’ bill will improve water quality in western Montana

(U.S. SENATE) – Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are introducing legislation to improve water quality within the Columbia River Basin, while also creating jobs in Northwestern states like Montana.

The Columbia River Basin is made up of waterways that feed the Columbia River, including western Montana rivers and lakes, like the Clark Fork and Flathead Rivers.

Tester and Walsh’s bill would allow state, tribal and local environmental officials to apply for grants to clean up toxics within the basin that are harmful to humans, fish and wildlife. In Montana, funding could be used to clean up the former Smurfit-Stone mill site, and to address fish mercury levels in Flathead Lake.

“Montanans rely on our waterways for agriculture, transportation and outdoor recreation,” Tester said. “This bill will create Montana jobs to make sure our rivers, lakes and streams stay healthy for future generations.”

“Clean and reliable water is a key economic driver for many communities across Montana,” Walsh said. “We must do everything we can to ensure the quality of our waterways and reward made-in-Montana river quality projects that protect our clean rivers and streams.”

Tester and Walsh’s bill specifies that at least one-quarter of the funds must be used to clean the Middle and Upper portions of the Columbia River Basin, which includes Montana.

The Senators are working together to permanently ban oil and gas development along the North Fork of the Flathead River, one of Montana’s most pristine watersheds. They also recently helped pass the Water Resources Development Act that included his provision to mitigate the impact of aquatic invasive species in the Columbia River Basin.

Tester and Walsh’s Columbia River Basin Restoration Act is supported by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).