KUMV: Mont., ND Delegations Ask to Keep Funding for Yellowstone Bypass Project

Funding for the construction of a fish bypass on the Yellowstone River is up in the air. A judge granted an injunction that stopped construction, and in the meantime, almost $60 million of federal funding is set to expire. Last week, some members of Congress sent a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that money doesn’t disappear.

Word traveled fast to the office of Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., when a judge granted an injunction on the Yellowstone River Fish Bypass project.

“It didn’t take long for farmers and ranchers of eastern Montana to be calling our office, so we heard from them immediately as soon as this injunction came down from the judge,” Daines said.

Daines and the other five members of the Montana and North Dakota delegations signed a letter urging the Army Corps of Engineers to keep funding allocated for the project.

“It’s very important that the delegation, both the Montana delegation and the North Dakota delegation are on the same page. And we are. And that voice speaks loudly. There’s a lot at stake here, our farmers and ranchers are concerned, but we’re going to keep this fight up until it’s resolved,” Daines said.

It was important to the delegation to act on this issue.

“This is their livelihood and that’s why we take this so seriously, that’s why we quickly got the signatures of every Montana senator and congressman and every North Dakota senator and congressman and got that letter off to the bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps,” Daines said.

And with all representatives from both states joining together, that sends a powerful message.

“When a letter from a single senator comes in, they re-evaluate, ‘OK, this must really affect these citizens.” But when a letter comes in and its signed by two different states, and the entire delegations from both states, there was no hold-outs. That is going to catch a lot of eyes,” said James Brower, Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project manager.

And that may already be working, as high ranking officials have been in contact with the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project.

“They fully intend to do what is necessary to protect the funding for this project,” Brower said.

And so the waiting game continues while the Army Corps makes its decision.

The Army Corps of Engineers did not respond to requests for comment on the status of the funding.