President Signs Montana Water Infrastructure Priorities into Law

U.S. SENATE — President Donald J. Trump today signed into law a bill that will improve Montana’s water infrastructure to help make communities safer and grow the economy. The new law will also help prevent the transmission of aquatic invasive species in the Columbia River Basin and increase responsible energy development in Montana. 

Water is the most basic need of any Montana community,” Daines said. “This bipartisan bill prioritizes important water infrastructure projects in Montana, helps fight against aquatic invasive species harming Montana ecosystems and increases access to water for Montana farmers and ranchers. I’m grateful that President Trump signed this important bill into law.”

The legislation is the most pro-Western water infrastructure legislation in history. 

Water resources and hydropower provisions benefiting Montana:

  • Expedites licensing of closed-loop pumped storage
    • FERC recently licensed the Gordon Butte Pumped Storage Project near Martinsdale
  • Protects the Columbia River Basin from aquatic invasive species including zebra and quagga mussel
  • Streamlines FERC hydropower approvals and relicensing
  • Promotes development of hydropower on existing non-powered dams
  • Ensures water delivery to Montana ranches and farms
  • Improves drinking water and wastewater systems across the country
  • Authorizes early funding for the Blackfeet water rights settlement so that its water-related infrastructure projects can be completed in a more efficient manner
  • Provides resources to connect, expand and repair water systems in Indian country

Following Daines’ vote to send the bill to the president’s desk, a diverse group of stakeholders issued the following statements of support:

Rep. Mike Cuffe, Vice President, Pacific NorthWest Economic Region: “I am excited about the continued federal support for the fight against aquatic invasive species. Senator Daines understood the danger early and became a staunch ally. I know because as Vice President of the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region, I helped present to senators, congressmen and federal agencies on the problem. These matching federal funds are huge in our fight to stop the spread of quagga and zebra mussels. We talk, Sen. Daines listens, and things happen. Good job, Steve.”

Thom Fischer, Manager, Gibson Dam Project: We applaud changes to the current FERC hydropower licensing provisions proposed… which would allow FERC to administratively extend hydropower licenses for an additional six years in order to allow for the project to meet additional federal requirements for environmental protections and to commence construction. Gibson Hydro had to ask Congress to approve such an extension, but it took us four years and several Congresses to accomplish what [this bill] would allow in a matter of months. This much more practical administrative extension would be welcomed.”

Pat Riley, Advisory Board Member, Family Farm Alliance: “Thank you for your efforts to getting AWIA 2018 passed. Water issues in all of Montana and the Western United States are key to all of us. The passage of [this bill] will serve our state, region, and nation in numerous ways. We will see additional funding for research, and prevention of Aquatic Invasive Species that are starting to affect our state and threaten much of our infrastructure. We will see additional assistance to rural water projects, assistance to both water and irrigation projects operated by tribal and non-tribal groups. We will also see passage and funding of the Blackfoot Water Rights Settlement Act. I would like to thank Senator Daines for his leadership on this effort and look forward to continuing to work with him on other efforts.”

Ted Sorenson, President, Sorenson Engineering: “This bill will help to develop Montana’s abundant natural resources while ensuring responsible environmental stewardship, and we thank Senator Daines for his support of it.”

Erling Juel, District Manager, Greensfields Irrigation District: “Montana is a model for other states for an all-of-the-above approach to securing American energy independence. We greatly appreciate Senator Daines’ support of irrigators putting their waterways and conduits to use making electricity.”

Carl Borgquist, President & CEO, Absaroka Energy: “Senator Daines has always been a strong proponent of responsible energy development including the advancement of closed-looped pumped storage hydro. He recognizes the value of energy storage to provide for a resilient and robust electrical grid.  Our Gordon Butte project is poised to be the first advanced pumped storage project built in the country. The passage of this bill is an important step in streamlining the regulatory process to ensure more facilities like Gordon Butte will be built in the United States.

Rich Powell, Executive Director, ClearPath Action: Boosting these conduit projects by reducing regulations does big things for small hydro. There is huge potential, particularly in western states like Montana, for providing clean and reliable power.” 

Tim Davis, Chairman, Blackfeet Tribe: “Thank you for all the work you did to assure our settlement language is in the bill for early access to funds. This enables our tribe to move forward in a positive way and provides much needed economic stimulus for our Blackfeet Nation. Great job!”