Tester Urges Treasury to Make Critical Montana Water Projects Eligible for Rescue Plan Funds
Senator: “Allowing funds to go towards the construction and rehabilitation of dams and reservoirs reflects Congressional intent to fund necessary water projects for public health and safety, the environment, and rural economies"
U.S. Senator Jon Tester today joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues in urging Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to make critical Montana water projects eligible for funding available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Tester secured $1.89 billion in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds for Montana in ARPA. But, Tester wrote in a letter, as communities across the west respond to and recover from historic drought, dam and reservoir projects like the Milk River Project should be included in the water infrastructure portion of the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds Final Rule to provide relief and maintain an adequate water supply. Currently, only specific projects related to drinking water are eligible for relief funds.
“Rural communities across the West still recovering from the impacts of COVID-19 are now dealing with severe drought highlighting the importance of reliable water supply. Dams and reservoirs are the lifelines of many communities – providing municipal water supply, irrigation to farm land, food security, and sustaining wildlife,” Tester and his colleagues wrote. “Allowing funds to go towards the construction and rehabilitation of dams and reservoirs reflects Congressional intent to fund necessary water projects for public health and safety, the environment, and rural economies to mitigate the impacts of COVID and drought.”
Tester first called on Yellen to add flexibility and make critical water infrastructure projects eligible for ARPA funds in May, and he also secured language in the bipartisan infrastructure package to allow ARPA funding to be used for the nonfederal costshare requirement for Bureau of Reclamation projects like the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam, which would be critical for rehabilitating St. Mary’s with its current 74 percent nonfederal costshare.
Tester has been leading the fight to increase investments in the Milk River Project since his time serving in the Montana Legislature, and included up to $100 million in dedicated funding to rehabilitate the Milk River Project as a part of the bipartisan infrastructure bill he negotiated with the White House to make urgently-needed investments in Montana’s roads, bridges, water systems and high-speed internet.
The Milk River Project provides water to 18,000 Montanans and irrigates enough cropland to feed one million people.
Read Tester’s letter HERE.