Daines’ Bills to Provide Critical Funding for Montana’s Rural Water Infrastructure Receive First Hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Steve Daines’ bills to provide much-needed funding for Montana rural water infrastructure received their first Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing today.

Daines’ bills— S. 1552 the Clean Water for Rural Communities Act and S. 1365, the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act – provide much-needed funding and authorization for the construction and completion of critical rural water infrastructure projects in Montana and other states.

Daines’ remarks can be viewed here and downloaded here.

Water is a basic need of life. In Montana, we depend on a steady supply to irrigate our crops, water our livestock and provide energy through hydropower,” Daines stated. “It is time that the federal government fulfills its obligations and promises to Montana’s rural communities and provides needed funding to ensure our rural water projects are completed.”

Jerry Meissner, Chairman of the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority (DRWA) testified before the Committee today. DRWA serves McCone, Richland, Dawson, Prairie and Garfield Counties.

“This part of Eastern Montana does not, historically, have good water quality.  Simply stated, the water is unsafe to drink,” Jerry Meissner, Chairman of the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority stated. “The Dry-Redwater Regional Water System will provide a safe and dependable municipal and rural water supply for the public water supply systems and rural users that comprise the Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority. Many positive long-term economic impacts will be realized by the agricultural, energy, tourism and recreational industries of the area; while the potential for good quality and quantity of water will allow businesses and housing to build and develop… The Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority fully supports S. 1365, the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act.”

S. 1365, the Authorized Rural Water Projects Completion Act, would provide consistent resources to complete the construction of rural water projects that have already been authorized by Congress and also ensure dedicated funding for implementation of Indian water rights settlements.

The bill, which Daines cosponsored with Senator Jon Tester, would ensure adequate funding is directed to projects in rural communities in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico, Minnesota, and Iowa that would provide much-needed access to water supplies.

S. 1552, the Clean Water for Rural Communities Act, authorizes two Bureau of Reclamation rural water projects—Dry-Redwater Rural Water System (DRWA) and Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System (CMWA).  Daines’ bill, which is also cosponsored by Tester, will collectively facilitate water treatment and delivery to 22,500 residents in Dawson, Garfield, McCone, Prairie, Richland, Judith Basin, Wheatland, Golden Valley, Fergus, Yellowstone, and Musselshell Counties in Montana and McKenzie County, North Dakota.  

Though several rural water projects have already received Congressional authorization, they struggle to receive the funds needed to complete construction in a timely and efficient manner. Between 1980 and 2007, Congress directed the Bureau to undertake 11 specific rural water supply projects, some of which remain uncompleted. There currently is no predictable funding for the remaining projects, because construction funding must be secured annually through the appropriations process and there is a significant backlog in construction funding for these projects.

Daines introduced similar legislation in the 113th Congress that would have provided rural communities the support necessary to finally complete rural water projects that have been underfunded for several years.

Several key Montana stakeholders also submitted statements to the record in support of Daines’ bills, including: Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System, State Senator Duane Ankeny and the Montana Department of Natural Resources.

The full text of S. 1365 can be found here.

The full text of S. 1552 can be found here.

Meissner’s full testimony can be viewed here and read here.