The delegation for Montana and North Dakota have displayed its support this week for the Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project.
Oral arguments that will determine the fate of the proposed project at the Intake Diversion Dam to make the project more fish friendly are scheduled to be heard during this month.
“Especially with the current drought and especially in far eastern Montana, the irrigation is critical,” U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said during a press conference call on Wednesday.
The senator added, “We really do need to more forward with the construction. We need to have people come together and make it happen.”
On Tuesdays, senators and representatives from Montana and North Dakota sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineeers and Bureau of Reclamation to urge those agencies to continue to support the project and not reallocate funding currently provided for the LYIP.
The letter was signed by Sen. Steve Daines, Tester, Rep. Greg Gianforte, Rep. Kevin Cramer, Sen. John Hoeven and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp.
“This project is critical to close to 400 farms and irrigates over 50,000 acres of cropland,” the members wrote. “That is why we also encourage you to address the concerns of the court and conduct the necessary analyses in a timely manner, thereby ensuring that this essential source of water for farmers, ranchers and communities throughout much of northeastern Montana and northwestern North Dakota is not unduly disrupted.”
Richland County Commissioner Shane Gorder said the commissioners plan to draft a letter early this week to Daines, Tester, Gianforte and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “I would like them, if they could, have some discussions with the judge,” Gorder said.
Gorder added that he feels some issues weren’t expressed enough to the judge. Those issues include the cost of the proposed pumps and the emissions those pumps would create.
“Just think of all the pollution and emissions,” Gorder said. “The maintenance will be unbelievable.