The Water Policy Interim Committee will set a plan of action for the 2017-2018 interim during its upcoming July 31-Aug. 1 meeting. Staff and various agencies will also lead the committee on a tour of three Helena-area sites to introduce a broad array of water issues, including irrigation, aquifers, water rights, stream restoration, and pollution discharge permitting.
The committee will meet at 10 a.m. on July 31 in Room 152 of the Capitol. The field trip will leave the Capitol at 1 p.m. and will include stops at the Helena Regulating Reservoir, the Little Prickly Pear Creek fishing access site, and the City of Helena Waste Water Treatment Plant. The committee will be joined by staff from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Helena Valley Irrigation District, Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Department of Environmental Quality, Lewis and Clark County Water Quality Protection District, Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology. The tour is open to the public.
During the last interim, the eight-member WPIC issued three reports, including one (“Assuming Dredge-and-Fill Permits”) that recommended the state assume dredge-and-fill permitting from the federal government if the 2015 Clean Water Rule is enforced. (The Environmental Protection Agency is now proposing to rescind that rule.)
In 2015-2016, the committee also studied the legal processes related to water rights (“Considerations for the Future of Water Rights”). The 2017 Legislature subsequently passed WPIC legislation allowing the Water Court to hear appeals of denied water rights permits or changes. The committee’s third study, “Issues of Water Availability and Supply,” examined various issues, including State Water Plan implementation, water banking, and exempt groundwater wells.
The committee will set its interim work plan on Aug. 1. Also on that day, the committee is scheduled to hear about a recently formed watershed group from the Clark Fork and Kootenai rivers, among other agenda items.
Legislators assigned to the committee for the 2017-2018 interim are Sens. Jill Cohenour (D-East Helena), Pat Connell (R-Hamilton), Jon Sesso (D-Butte), and Jeffrey Welborn (R-Dillon); and Reps. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls), Zach Brown (D-Bozeman), John Fleming (D-St. Ignatius), and Carl Glimm (R-Kila).
The meeting will be live-streamed at www.leg.mt.gov and will be broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT). Please check your local channel listings to find TVMT in your area. For more information on the committee’s activities and upcoming meeting, including a full agenda, please visit the committee’s website or contact Jason Mohr, committee staff.