Tester Fights for Stronger Rural Drinking Water Infrastructure
After Securing Additional Funding, Senator Demands Bureau of Reclamation Boost Resources for Montana Rural Water Projects
(U.S. Senate)-After working across the aisle to secure more infrastructure funding in a major law last month, U.S. Senator Jon Tester is fighting to invest more of those dollars in Montana to increase access to clean, reliable drinking water.
Tester is pushing Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman to provide more funding to construct critical drinking water infrastructure in northcentral and northeast Montana. Tester is specifically fighting to boost investments in the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water Project and the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Rural Water Project, which combined serve more than 60,000 Montanans.
“Your agency has a great opportunity to make significant progress on these rural water infrastructure projects this year,” Tester wrote. “Montanans served by these projects deserve reliable and adequate water systems that will promote public health and lay a solid foundation for economic growth and opportunity. I respectfully ask you to prioritize these projects and provide the necessary funding to see them through completion in a timely fashion.”
Tester secured $120 million for rural water projects in the government funding bill that was signed into law last month. The Bureau of Reclamation is responsible for administering these funds to each of the country’s five authorized rural water projects.
Tester is pushing the Bureau of Reclamation to appropriate $27 million for the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water Project in northeast Montana, which serves communities on and off the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. The Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water Project is nearly two-thirds complete and is also partially funded with local taxpayer dollars.
Tester is also urging the Bureau of Reclamation to appropriate $48 million to the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Rural Water Project in northcentral Montana, which covers 6.8 million acres on and off the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation. The Rocky Boy’s/North Central Rural Water Project is approximately 25 percent complete and it supports the implementation of the Chippewa Cree Water Compact. The Rocky Boy’s/North Central Rural Water Project is the only of the five authorized rural water project in the country that doesn’t have a water treatment plant, which has caused a high volume of E-coli, stomach ulcers, and other diseases on the Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation.
In addition to securing more resources to fund the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water Project and the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Rural Water Project, Tester introduced the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act that will invest $80 million annually for the next 20 years to complete the construction of Montana’s rural water projects. The funding for Tester’s bill will not come from taxpayers, but rather from the Bureau of Reclamation Fund that uses receipts from onshore oil and gas development and other federal revenue to fund infrastructure projects.
Tester is 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 new rural water projects would be eligible to receive funds from the Bureau of Reclamation.
Since 1980, 11 rural water projects have been authorized across the western United States to increase access to clean drinking water in rural areas. Today, five of the 11 rural water infrastructure projects are still under construction due to inconsistent funding from the Bureau of Reclamation.
Tester’s letter to Burman is available HERE.