At Committee Hearing, Tester Promotes St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act, Urges Swift Action

Senator’s legislation will authorize $52 million to rehabilitate the St. Mary's Diversion, set the cost share for the rehabilitation

At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Power, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today introduced his bipartisan, bicameral legislation to make rehabilitating the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam more affordable, and ensure the Milk River Project can continue providing water to farmers, ranchers, and Tribes in Northcentral Montana that depend on it.

The St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act will authorize $52 million to rehabilitate the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam, part of Bureau of Reclamation’s (BoR) Milk River Project in northcentral Montana, and require the BoR to use an ability-to-pay study on what the current water users could afford to pay for the project and set the cost share for the rehabilitation based on that study.

“The St. Mary’s Diversion Dam is a cornerstone of northern Montana’s agricultural economy and way of life that irrigates over 121,000 acres, provides water for four towns, and serves a critical role in the water rights for two Tribal communities,” said Tester. “[The St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act] builds on the $100 million I secured in the bipartisan infrastructure bill for rehabilitating the Milk River Project by providing targeted funding specifically for the St. Mary’s Diversion Dam, one of the highest-priority parts of the project…In Montana, we know that water is life. And it’s a testament to how universal that is when you see the entire Montana delegation united behind this bill.”

Tester authored and introduced the bill, with Senator Daines joining as an original cosponsor. Congressman Rosendale introduced the bill in the House of Representatives.

Earlier this year, Tester announced $85 million for the St. Mary’s Diversion and Headworks as a part of up to $100 million he secured for the Milk River Project through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), which Tester negotiated and helped pass into law last year. This funding will be allocated through the Bureau of Reclamation and used for the St. Mary’s Canal diversion and headworks replacement project, which will include a large fish bypass structure to mitigate impacts to bull trout. The first round of funding, $2.5 million, was announced in January and will be used for planning and project design in 2022.

Tester directly negotiated and wrote the provision of the IIJA that will provide up to $100 million to rehabilitate the Milk River Project, and he was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to support the legislation.

Tester worked across the aisle for months to negotiate his bipartisan package with a group of five Republicans, four Democrats, and the White House, and he was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation to vote for it. Tester’s law is projected to create more than 800,000 American jobs and lower costs for businesses by making targeted investments that will strengthen our nation without raising taxes on working families.


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