The Environmental Quality Council will tour a watercraft inspection station at Canyon Ferry Reservoir on June 29 before hunkering down back at the capitol to decide what policy issues the legislative committee will tackle over the next year.
The morning tour of the watercraft inspection station stems from the attention focused on aquatic invasive species after the discovery last fall of invasive mussel larvae in Tiber Reservoir. Samples from Canyon Ferry indicated larvae might be present there as well. Most often transported between waterbodies by attaching themselves to watercraft, mussels can damage boats, clog irrigation diversions and hydroelectric facilities, and degrade aquatic habitat. The 2017 Legislature considered and passed several bills dealing with invasive species.
Created in 1971, the Environmental Quality Council (EQC) is a bipartisan panel with 16 voting members, including 12 legislators and four members of the public. A representative of the governor is a nonvoting member. The June 29-30 meeting is the first meeting of the interim, the time between legislative sessions.
In addition to monitoring and studying issues related to invasive species, the EQC also will consider several other topics to work on during the interim when it convenes at 1 p.m. in room 172 of the capitol on June 29. The 2017 Legislature passed two study resolutions that are assigned to the EQC. Senate Joint Resolution No. 5 directs the EQC to study the effects of reduced coal mining and usage of coal. Senate Joint Resolution No. 9 is a study of chronic wasting disease, which afflicts deer, elk, and moose.
Also up for consideration are study topics related to state parks, infrastructure funding, wildlife corridors, public land volunteers, a proposed copper mine, brucellosis, and natural resource data collection and several issues related to forest fires.
The EQC will select two members to serve on a subcommittee examining the future of state-supported labs on the MSU campus in Bozeman, including the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, the Wool Lab, the Wildlife Lab, and the Seed Lab. The 2017 Legislature mandated the study with the passage of House Bill No. 661.
Other items on the meeting agenda include updates on wolf management, water supplies, and fire season.
The council will elect a chair and a vice chair. Representatives assigned to the EQC are Willis Curdy, D-Missoula; Janet Ellis, D-Helena; Steve Gunderson, R-Libby; Bradley Maxon Hamlett, D-Cascade; Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton; and Kerry White, R-Bozeman. Senators are Mike Lang, R-Malta; Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman; JP Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman; Cary Smith, R-Billings; Chas Vincent, R-Libby; and Gene Vuckovich, D-Anaconda. Public members are Scott Aspenlieder, Billings; John Brenden, Scobey; Kylie Paul, Missoula; and Matt Vincent, Butte. Patrick Holmes represents the governor.
The meeting is live streamed at http://leg.mt.gov and broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT.) Check local channel listings to find TVMT. For more information about the meeting, including a full agenda, visit the committee’s website or contact Joe Kolman, committee staff.