Tester Secures More than $5 Million for Water Conservation and Efficiency Projects in Montana

Funding will come from Senator’s bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and 2023 government funding bill

As part of his continued effort to upgrade critical infrastructure and support economic growth in rural communities, U.S. Senator Jon Tester secured more than $5 million through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Omnibus Appropriations Package for water conservation and efficiency projects in Montana. The funding was awarded to five water projects across the state through the Bureau of Reclamation’s WaterSMART program. 

Tester negotiated the IIJA and was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to support the bipartisan legislation. And as a leader on the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester played a key role in crafting the 2023 annual federal budget. He was the only member of the Montana delegation to vote for it.

“As a third-generation farmer, I understand that water is life,” said Tester. “Especially as Montana’s farmers, ranchers, and small businesses deal with the lasting effects of drought, it’s critical that we’ve got top-notch infrastructure in place to conserve water and make sure we’re preparing for the future.  That’s why I worked to secure this funding to upgrade essential infrastructure and improve the resiliency of rural communities across the Treasure State.”

A breakdown of the funding can be found below:

  • $188,296 – East Bench Irrigation District, Carter Creek Lining and Headgate Automation Project (southwest Montana)
    • Upgrades will allow the district to remotely monitor upstream flows and water levels in the canal, and remotely control the gates. Conserved water can be employed during shortages and will otherwise remain in the Beaverhead River and Clark Canyon Reservoir to enhance water levels, temperatures, and quality. 
  • $4,300,000 – Greenfields Irrigation District, Hydropower Development Project (northwest Montana)
    • Three existing drop structures will be replaced and a hydropower turbine will be installed to increase energy capacity and account for the future installation of hydropower. Water saved as a result of the project will allow the district to divert less water from Sun River at times when the river reaches critically low levels, improving instream flows for fish populations and recreation.
  • $203,505 – Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, Thomas Point Pumping Plant Replacement (eastern Montana)
    • The existing 200-horsepower pump will be replaced to allow for remote monitoring and control of the new pump. Conserved water will help meet peak irrigation demand and avoid water rationing during times of drought. More efficient control will also improve the quality of water discharged back to the Yellowstone River.
  • $124,999 – Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project, Critical Structure Replacement Project (eastern Montana)
    • Two concrete headgates will be replaced with new structures, new gates, and a new monitoring system. Conserved water will help meet peak irrigation demand and avoid water rationing during times of drought.
  • $243,408 – Pondera County Canal and Reservoir Company, C-Canal Headworks Automation Project (northern Montana)
    • A Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system and flow measurement weirs will be installed. The Company will also automate three gates, allowing them to remotely monitor flows and remotely control flow diversions. Conserved water will be stored in Birch Creek Reservoir and Lake Frances to increase late season storage and to provide higher reservoir levels in an area that provides critical habitat for fish and wildlife.

Tester has worked tirelessly to ensure that rural communities have access to modern, reliable water infrastructure. In the 2023 government funding package, Tester secured $8.67 million for the Rocky Boys/North Central Rural Water System and $3.9 million for the ongoing operation and maintenance of the Milk River Project, which included $43.5 million for upgrades to the Fresno Dam.

In February, Tester secured $77.56 million through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) for the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water System, $15 million for the Fort Peck/Dry Prairie Rural Water System, and $25 million for the Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System. And last March, Tester secured $101.5 million for Montana rural water systems – the first tranche of the approximately $271 million he secured for rural water infrastructure in IIJA.

Last April, Tester secured $127 million in competitive water and sewer grants for Montana from ARPA. The state’s ARPA Infrastructure Advisory Commission approved $118 million for 95 water and sewer projects and $8.8 million for 34 irrigation projects. This direct funding was delivered as part of the $1.369 billion Tester secured for Montana’s cities, towns, counties, and the state of Montana for health and economic crisis response, water and sewer projects, internet connectivity, and additional funding for Tribes.