Tester Announces $2 Million to Upgrade Rural Water Systems

(U.S. Senate) – Senator Jon Tester announced today that five Montana towns will receive nearly $2 million in federal funding to improve their water and waste disposal infrastructure.

“Clean water is our most precious resource and every community needs a reliable water system in place that can support families and businesses,” Tester said. “Investing in our state’s water infrastructure is critically important for the health of rural economies. This money will go a long way in upgrading local water infrastructure that is badly needed across Montana.”

Tester helped secure funding for the USDA Rural Development’s (RUS) Water and Waste Disposal Loan Grant Program, which specifically helps communities with fewer than 10,000 residents modernize their water treatment and waste systems.

Tester serves on the subcommittee tasked with writing the Agriculture Department’s annual budget.

He says this funding will allow rural communities to expand the capacity, reliability, and cleanliness of their water systems which benefits residents, the environment, and economic development alike. The breakdown of awards by city and project is as follows:

Gallatin Gateway – $310,000 (loan) + $125,000 (grant)
Gallatin Gateway is a rural community that was first established in the 1880’s. This funding will go toward installing the town’s first centralized sewer system to address inefficiencies and public health concerns from the existing septic tanks, drainage fields and wells.

  • “Wastewater systems form the most basic elements of community infrastructure,” said Matt Donnelly, General Manager of the Gallatin Gateway County Water & Sewer District. “And we are so grateful to USDA’s Rural Development program, to Senator Tester’s office, and to the various State of Montana agencies for helping to make our project a reality. The outcomes of this project will be cleaner water for our residents and for the Gallatin River.”

Harlem – $110,000 (grant)
As a result of a court order that found that the discharge from Harlem’s wastewater management system into the nearby Milk River violated environmental standards, the city managed to raise enough money to overhaul their current system. Part of this was a $4.9 million grant from RUS, but when construction bid amounts exceeded the original estimates for the project, the USDA went back and added an additional $110,000 in funding to complete the new system.

  • “This funding will supplement the original grant we received from the USDA, as well as the money we raise through state and local agencies, to revamp our water and waste systems here in Harlem” said Mayor Bill Taylor. “This funding will really help limit any additional charges for water usage, so we can keep the state’s waterways clean without passing on huge price increases to our residents.”

Geraldine – $140,000 (grant)
This funding will go toward repairing the town’s primary water storage tank that was installed about a decade ago, but has since developed a leak. Fixing this storage tank will ensure the city of Geraldine has enough water to serve its residents, fight nearby fires, and supply the farmers and ranchers that live and work along the Hawarden and Geraldine water lines.

  • “We’re just really glad to benefit from this, and we really appreciate all the help from Rural Development on this project,” said Perry Joyce, Mayor of Geraldine.

Lodge Grass – $442,366 (grant)
This grant will help purchase and install a 250,000 gallon elevated tank to replace the current storage tank, a back-up generator for the water treatment plant, and radio read water meters.

Hysham – $134,000 (loan) + $700,000 (grant)
This funding will be used to purchase and install a 250,000 gallon elevated water storage tank to replace the current storage tank, a back-up generator for the water treatment plant, and replacement of all cast iron mains in the distribution system.

  • “This is the second grant we’ve received toward our $3 million water project,” said Hysham Mayor Larry Fink. “And the citizens of the town of Hysham are very thankful for all of Senator Jon Tester’s support in making sure the funding for USDA Rural Development loans and grants remain intact.”

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester has worked hard to boost funding for RUS’s Water and Waste Disposal grant and loan program-particularly through his work on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee. Back in June, Tester announced another $1.5 million in funding through the same Water and Waste Disposal Grant Loan Program for the cities of Cut Bank, Thompson Falls, and the town of Plains.