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Over $300 Million To Repair St. Mary Milk River System In Federal Infrastructure Bill

More than $300 million of federal funding for Montana water projects is included in the infrastructure bill negotiated by a group of Senate Democrats and Republicans. The proposal includes funds to repair the century old St Mary Milk River system.

Up to $100 million of the Montana funding are outlined in the bill to go towards rehabilitation of the crumbling St Mary Milk River Project, a 339-mile water lifeline along Montana’s Hi-Line.

The system provides water to two tribes, several municipalities as well as recreation, wildlife habitats and irrigators.

Jennifer Patrick, Projects Manager for the Milk River Joint Board of Control says their needs have a big price tag.

“I mean we have $200 million worth outstanding infrastructure up there. But I would say number one is the diversion dam. Get that reconstructed and solved and make it a fish-friendly bull trout passage facility,” Patrick says.

Next would be 2 metal siphons and 29 miles of canal that needs lining and other work.

The funding for water infrastructure projects in Montana is part of the $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure package released by a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, including Montana Democrat Jon Tester.

The water infrastructure portion of the bill made it over a first hurdle Wednesday when the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed it 13-7. Montana U-S Senator Steve Daines and two other Republican senators on the committee joined the Democrats in support.

Daines’ staff says the senator has not said how he will vote if and when the full infrastructure package comes to the Senate for a vote. Questions remain about how the entire package will be funded.

The bill needs a 60-vote majority to pass the Senate.

A release from Tester’s office says congressional leaders hope to have a floor vote take place before the extended August recess.