Tester and Daines’ Bipartisan Rural Water Infrastructure Bill Receives Senate Hearing

Montana’s Senators Team Up to Construct and Invest in Rural Drinking Water Systems

(U.S. Senate)-U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines’ bipartisan rural water infrastructure bill received a Senate hearing today.

Tester and Daines’ Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act will invest $80 million annually for the next 20 years to construct and upgrade drinking water infrastructure in Montana and across the country. The bill received the hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power.

“Every Montana family and business needs reliable access to clean water,” Tester said. “Folks in rural areas have been waiting too long for these projects to be completed and this bipartisan bill will authorize the funding needed to invest in infrastructure, increase access to clean water, and create good paying jobs.”

“No Montanan should be without clean and reliable water,” said Daines. “We must provide the infrastructure to deliver safe and dependable water to our farmers, ranchers and rural Montana families.”

“Water is and always will be key to the future economic development of the Highline and North Central Montana,” said Larry Bonderud, President of the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority. “Communities with an adequate supply of clean drinking water will prosper and those without it will die and blow away. This funding is vital for the future of Northern Montana.”

“Access to clean drinking water is a critical component to life, for both Tribal and Non-Tribal Communities,” said Harlan Baker, Chairman of the Chippewa Cree Tribe. “Due to the inadequate Federal funding, the Chippewa Cree Tribe and North Central Montana Regional Water Authority have been forced to deal with aging infrastructure emergencies. With today’s hearing on the Authorized Rural Water Completion Act, this is a significant step forward to the protection of public health and prosperity of rural America including Indian Country.”

Annual funding for the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act will not come from taxpayers, but rather from the Bureau of Reclamation Fund that uses receipts from onshore oil and gas development to fund infrastructure projects.

Montana has two rural water systems that would have immediate access to these funds: the Fort Peck-Dry Prairie Rural Water System in northeast Montana and Rocky Boy’s-North Central Montana Rural Water System, which combined will serve over 60,000 Montanans.

Tester and Daines are also sponsoring legislation to authorize the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Project in eastern Montana and the Mussellshell-Judith Rural Water Project in central Montana. Once authorized, both of these rural water projects would be eligible to receive funds under the Senators’ Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act.

Tester and Daines’ bill additionally provides $35 million annually for 20 years for Indian water rights settlements, including tribal water projects and settlements in Montana that have been or still need to be enacted by Congress.

Since 1980, 11 rural water projects have been designated across the western United States. Today, six of the 11 rural water infrastructure projects are still under construction due to inconsistent funding from Congress.