Daines Rural Water Projects Bill Receives Senate Hearing

Daines Presses Forest Service on Health of Watersheds and Impact of Litigation

U.S. SENATE —U.S. Senator Steve Daines’ bill that would move Montana rural water projects forward and ensure the completion of authorized projects across Montana today received its first hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. 

The Western Water Supply and Planning Enhancement Act would help improve the efficiency of existing water supply infrastructure, ease the regulatory burden on new projects, and protect water rights that are critical to the prosperity of the Western United States. 

“From the crops and grazing fields of our state’s agriculture providers, water is our most valuable resource,” Daines stated. “Our farmers, ranchers and families deserve access to a reliable water source.”

Click here to watch Daines’ remarks.

Click here to download Daines’ remarks.

The bill also accelerates implementation of Montana-made forest management projects that enhance watersheds and reduce the risk of wildfires. This is critical for Montana as there are approximately 1,393 watersheds encompassed by at least 25 percent of National Forest lands in the state.

In the hearing, Daines urged the U.S. Forest Service to continue working with local communities in an effort to mitigate potential harm caused by wildfire that can have negative effects on water quality.  

Daines also stressed the damaging impacts of litigation against forest health projects, highlighting a court injunction that has stopped work on the collaboratively-developed Bozeman Municipal Watershed project. 

Under Daines’ questioning, Leslie Weldon, the Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, agreed that delayed implementation of restoration projects due to an injunction “are a significant problem when we know that the (restoration) work we would invest in would make a difference.”

The legislation includes Daines’ bill S. 1552, the Clean Water for Rural Communities Act. It authorizes two Bureau of Reclamation rural water projects—Dry-Redwater Rural Water System (DRWA) and Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System (CMWA).  Daines’ bill received its first Senate hearing on June 18, 2015.  

Daines’ bill 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.