Following Tester Push, Bureau of Reclamation Agrees to More Affordable Cost Share on Milk River Infrastructure

Reclamation will cover 35 percent of emergency repairs following Tester letter

Following a sustained push by U.S. Senator Jon Tester, the Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to use its emergency maintenance authority to do replacement work on Drops 2 and 5 of the Milk River Project, with 35 percent of the costs to be covered by the federal government, rather than the 25 percent currently covered by Reclamation. While negotiations on the final contract for construction are underway, the state of Montana has stepped in with millions of dollars in bonding authority to help meet the nonfederal cost share for this work.

“This is a positive step forward, and I’m glad Commissioner Berman listened to my call and worked with the state and the Milk River Joint Board of Control to reduce the cost share burden on irrigators for these repairs,” said Tester. “But it’s more important than ever that we push forward to pass my legislation to make sure all the necessary investments are made for folks in Eastern Montana and I will keep working with Reclamation to make sure the rehabilitation of the Milk River Project doesn’t leave irrigators holding the check.”

Following the collapse of Drop 5 in May, Tester sent a letter to Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman, urging the Bureau to lower the cost of repairs to Montana irrigators:

“It will be critical for any work to be conducted without an unreasonable cost to water users. I have led bipartisan legislation to address the current large nonfederal cost share requirement for work on the system, which has held up the needed repairs on Drop 5 and other critical work on the project. This is a cost Reclamation will need to shoulder, or irrigators will have to choose between breaking the bank on emergency repairs or not receiving enough water this season.”

For years, Tester has led the push to rehabilitate the St. Mary’s Canal. His St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act would reduce the cost irrigators will have to pay to make critical investments in and improvements to the rest of the Milk River Project so that irrigators in Eastern Montana have the water security they need to survive.