Tester, Daines introduce bill to improve Montana’s rural water infrastructure

Senators’ bill will invest in tribal and rural water needs

(U.S. Senate) – Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines today announced they will introduce a bipartisan bill to guarantee critical investments to improve and update Montana’s aging rural water systems.

The Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act will establish a guaranteed annual investment of $80 million from the Reclamation Fund to upgrade eligible rural water systems for 20 years.

Montana has two rural water systems that would have access to these funds: the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie Rural Water System and Rocky Boy’s-North Central Montana Rural Water System. Additionally, if authorized by Congress, Dry Redwater Regional Water System Rural Water Project in eastern Montana and the Mussellshell-Judith Rural Water Project would be eligible to receive funds under the bill.

“Every family in Montana deserves reliable access to clean water,” Tester said. “This bill will create good paying jobs, invest in essential water infrastructure, provide certainty for rural families, and support Montana’s family farms and ranches.”

“Far too many rural Montana families lack reliable access to clean and safe water,” Daines said. “By fulfilling the federal government’s promises to Montana’s rural communities, this bill will help ensure the completion of vital rural water projects and provide Montana families, farmers and ranchers with the long-term certainty they deserve.”

Tester and Daines’ bill also provides an annual investment of $35 million for 20 years to help pay for projects associated with tribal water compacts, including those in Montana that have been or still need to be enacted by Congress.

Three Montana tribal water compacts have passed the Montana legislature with bipartisan support and have been signed into state law by the governor, but now need to undergo final negotiations between the Department of Interior, the tribes, and all interested parties before being considered by Congress.

The Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act will not add to the federal debt because it prohibits the Treasury Secretary from transferring funds to pay for these infrastructure upgrades if doing so would increase the deficit.