The Legislature's water committee completed its interim business, approving legislation for the 2021 session.
The Water Policy Interim Committee (WPIC) also declined objection to a proposed selenium water quality standard in the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa.
The Water Policy Interim Committee's actions on Oct. 13 followed previous approval of legislation and three reports in September. The WPIC's four committee bills for the 2021 session include:
- Revising DNRC performance benchmarks related to water rights adjudication
- Clarifying use of river basin councils
- Amending the water right ownership update process
- Revise weather modification and control statutes.
The committee also issued three reports, reflecting some of their policy work during the 2020-21 interim, including:
- HJ14: Prospects for a future Water Court
- HJ40: Seeding clouds
- A study of climate and water rights
The Board of Environmental Review initiated rulemaking for site-specific selenium water quality standards in the Kootenai River and Lake Koocanusa. In 2005, rising selenium levels were identified. Increased levels are believed to be originating from high-grade coal mining operations in the Elk River Valley in British Columbia. The Elk River is a tributary to the Kootenai River. The Department of Environmental Quality scheduled a virtual public hearing on the standard for Nov. 5.
State laws give the WPIC oversight of water-related administrative rules, allowing the committee to delay or halt such a standard. However, a committee motion to delay the selenium rule did not pass.
The committee's next scheduled meeting is after the 2021 legislative session. For more information on committee or working group activities—including links to all proposed legislation and finalized reports—please visit the committee’s website or contact Jason Mohr, committee staff.
Committee Website: www.leg.mt.gov/water
Committee Staff: firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-444-1640
The Legislative News.