Tester, Daines & Gianforte Introduce Bill to Invest in Critical Milk River Infrastructure Project

Delegation’s legislation will improve irrigation, save money for thousands of Montana producers

(U.S. Congress) – U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, and Congressman Greg Gianforte today introduced legislation to increase critical investments in the Milk River Infrastructure Project that thousands of Montana farmers rely on for access to reliable irrigation water in northcentral Montana.

The St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act, will ensure that the federal government picks up 75 percent of the costs for upgrades to the century-old water project. Currently, the federal government only funds 26 percent of the project, leaving local users with the responsibility to pay the rest of the tab.

“Water is life, and folks across the Hi-Line understand how critical this investment is for our state’s number one industry,” Tester said. “This bill will ensure that local taxpayers, farmers, and ranchers aren’t stuck with a big bill while important upgrades are made to one of the nation’s first water reclamation projects.”

“The Milk River Project is about protecting jobs and our way of life in Montana,” Daines said. “This project would lift the financial burden off hardworking folks in northcentral Montana, that’s why it’s critical that our colleagues join in passing this legislation.”

“Montana’s farmers and ranchers need reliable access to water. After providing water along the Hi-Line for more than a century, the Milk River Project requires an upgrade,” Gianforte said. “I introduced this bill, because hardworking Montanans shouldn’t have to shoulder so much of the burden to upgrade this critical project.”

“We are proud to see the Montana delegation work together to introduce the St. Mary Reinvestment Act,” said Jennifer Patrick, Milk River Joint Board of Control Project Manager. “The St. Mary and Milk River project is the lifeline of the Hi-Line and our agricultural economy. This legislation recognizes the support the Milk River Project needs by properly adjusting the project’s cost-share allocation. The Milk River Joint Board of Control irrigators and the St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group fully support this bill and look forward to its swift consideration.”

The delegation’s bill will cover 75 percent of the cost of upgrading and operating the Sherburne Dam and Reservoir, Swift Current Creek Dike, Lower St. Mary Lake, St. Mary Canal Diversion Dam, and the St. Mary Canal.

The Milk River Water Project provides water to 18,000 Montanans and irrigates enough cropland to feed one million people.