Montana’s Congressional delegation has introduced legislation to increase investments in the Milk River Infrastructure Project that thousands of farmers use for irrigation water in north-central Montana.
Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines as well as Congressman Greg Gianforte introduced the St. Mary’s Reinvestment Act, which will ensure the federal government picks up 75 percent of the costs for upgrades to the century-old water project.
According to Tester’s office, the federal government only funds 26 percent of the project, which leaves local users to pay for the rest.
“Water is life, and folks across the Hi-Line understand how critical this investment is for our state’s number one industry,” Tester stated. “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.”
Daines said the Milk River Project is about protecting jobs and Montana’s way of life.
“This project would lift the financial burden off hardworking folks in north-central Montana, that’s why it’s critical that our colleagues join in passing this legislation,” he commented.
Gianforte added that 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.”
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, according to a press release.
Video from May of 2018: