Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed the ‘Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act’ to deliver critical relief after the St. Mary Siphon failure earlier this week.

Montana Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines worked together to get that legislation passed.

Tester appeared on the floor of the Senate to plead for help from Congress.

Senators Tester and Daines Worked Together to Pass Flooding Legislation

“Earlier this week, we saw a water diversion project that takes water from the St Mary's drainage and then puts it in the Milk River literally blow up,” began Senator Tester. “That siphon that blew up had been around for over 100 years. It is critical for northern Montana. The project is near a town called Babb, Montana. The siphon failure caused thousands of gallons of water to flood the surrounding area, leading to extensive damage to local businesses in that area and will damage irrigation opportunities for 120,000 acres.”

Tester emphasized the importance of prompt action by Congress.

Tester Said Hundreds of Farmers and Ranchers are Affected

“The timing of this cannot be worse, because there are literally hundreds of farmers and ranchers who are currently depending on that Milk River project to irrigate their crops,” he said. “Because of the severity of this situation, I immediately called on the Biden administration to work to ensure that the local communities and the irrigators have the resources they need to fix this problem, including the Milk River project in the administration's domestic supplemental package.”

Tester provided more details about how the project will help Montana.

“Congress can unlock critical funding for the Milk River Project; once again, by passing the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act, a critically important piece of legislation that addresses a wide range of issues. When finalizing this settlement, the Fort Belknap Indian community recognized how important the St Mary's canal is to all the water users in north central Montana.”


The Bill Must be Passed by the U.S. House and Signed by the President

Senator Daines passed along his support while driving through the area.

“This is a huge win for the tribe, farmers and ranchers and the entire state of Montana,” said Daines. “As the final Indian water rights settlement in Montana, this bill will help provide clean drinking water to Montanans on the High Line. It will invest in critical agriculture irrigation, help prevent costly litigation by codifying existing water rights, especially after the catastrophic siphon failure at St Mary's this week. We must get this done after years of very hard work with the Fort Belknap Indian community and local leaders on the ground, I'm very glad to see this come one step closer to becoming law.”

The issue must now go to the U.S. House of Representatives and then be signed into law by President Biden.

25 Mind-Blowing Photos of Devastating Flooding in Montana

20 Mind-Blowing Photos of Devastating Flooding in Montana

Gallery Credit: Jesse James

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