USDA Partners to Improve Rural Water and Wastewater Infrastructure in 23 States including Montana

New Partnerships Support More Prosperous Futures for More than 73,000 People

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett visited the state today to announce that USDA is investing more than $124 million (PDF, 155.4 KB) to help rebuild and improve rural water infrastructure in 23 states. Five projects in Louisiana are receiving funding.

“Modern, reliable water infrastructure provides a foundation for economic growth and prosperity,” Hazlett said. “USDA’s partnerships with rural communities underscore Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s commitment to ensuring that rural places have the infrastructure needed to thrive.”

USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

Hazlett announced that the following projects in Louisiana will receive USDA funding:

  • The Poland Water Association, Inc. is receiving a $1 million loan and a $161,000 grant to construct two water wells. The booster station will be restored to service with a new chlorination facility and a pad-mounted natural gas generator to provide emergency power. The office building will be brought into compliance with the Architectural Barriers Act accessibility standard. Radio-read water meters will be installed to improve billing efficiency. The Poland Water Association, Inc. serves 909 customers in Rapides Parish.
  • The Alberta Water System, Inc. will use a $164,000 loan and a $1.5 million grant to construct an additional well. Water meters will be replaced with radio-read meters to reduce water loss. Carbon treatment systems will be added to both booster stations to mitigate disinfection byproducts. Generators will be added to both booster stations to provide emergency power supply. The Alberta Water System serves 1,858 customers in Bienville Parish. Additional funding includes a $30,000 Rural Development Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households grant and a $2,000 contribution from the water system.
  • The Lena Water System, Inc. will receive a $3 million loan to adjust the discharge pressure for the booster stations, construct two water wells and a ground storage tank with booster pumps, and install radio-read meters. The improvements will provide additional production and storage capacity to meet the System’s growing demand. Lena serves 1,185 customers in Rapides Parish.
  • The town of Delcambre will use a $291,000 loan and a $183,000 grant to upgrade water distribution lines that service residents in Vermilion Parish. Funds will also be used to install meters to prevent water loss. Delcambre’s water system serves approximately 762 residential customers and 70 commercial customers. In FY 2015, the project received a $1,722,000 USDA loan and a $1,179,220 USDA grant.
  • The Waterworks District No. 3 – Parish of St. Landry will receive a $500,000 loan to extend water lines under Three Mile Lake to serve the North Wilderness subdivision. The Water District currently serves 154 customers. The project will enable it to extend services to 116 new customers within St. Landry Parish.

Below are examples of other infrastructure projects across the nation that USDA is helping to support.

  • In Nettleton, Miss., the Cason Water District is receiving a $2.1 million loan and a $1.9 million grant to install surface water transmission lines from the Northeast Mississippi Water Supply District to the Cason Water District. A booster station, an elevated storage tank and larger distribution lines will also be installed. This project will correct water supply loss and accommodate future growth. The improvements will provide improved water service to 1,657 customers.
  • McLouth, Kan., is receiving a $1.3 million loan to improve the city’s water infrastructure. The project will replace approximately 9,400 feet of pipe and 4,100 feet of antiquated service line. In addition, 420 old water meters will be replaced with automatic meter readers and control panels at the water treatment facility. The upgrade will serve more than 860 residents.
  • The town of Black Oak, Ark., will use a $687,000 loan and a $1.9 million grant to construct a wastewater collection system for the town and the surrounding rural area. The new collection system will serve 135 residents. Most of the individual septic systems are malfunctioning. A public wastewater system that meets current health and sanitary standards also will be constructed.

The funding that USDA is announcing today will benefit communities in Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont and West Virginia.

In FY 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.8 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.

Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.

In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.

To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

USDA Encourages Rural Communities, Water Districts to Apply for Loans to Improve, Rebuild Infrastructure; $4 Billion Available

Department’s Latest Investments to Benefit 165,000 People in Rural Communities in 24 States

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2018 – Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett today announced a historic commitment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to upgrade and rebuild rural water infrastructure.
“USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural communities in building their futures,” Hazlett said. “All people – regardless of their zip code – need modern, reliable infrastructure to thrive, and we have found that when we address this need, many other challenges in rural places become much more manageable.”
Eligible rural communities and water districts can apply online for funding to maintain, modernize or build water and wastewater systems. They can visit the interactive RD Apply tool, or they can apply through one of USDA Rural Development’s state or field offices.
USDA is providing the funding through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. It can be used to finance drinking water, stormwater drainage, and waste disposal systems for rural communities with 10,000 or fewer residents.
Below are a few examples of USDA’s latest investment (PDF, 162 KB) of $164 million for 54 projects nationwide:
  • Wadesboro, N.C., is receiving a $706,000 loan and an $815,000 grant to improve its water distribution system. The town will install 7,000 linear feet of eight- and 12-inch PVC and dip water main, and 11 hydrants and service re-connections. The project will benefit the town’s 2,012 residential users, 84 commercial users, eight industrial users and five institutional users. Wadesboro, population 5,841, is in Anson County.
  • The village of Greenview, Ill., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and a $3.7 million grant to construct a wastewater collection and treatment facility. The system will collect and convey wastewater via a centralized pumping station. Wastewater will be transferred to a contained mechanical treatment system. Treated wastewater will then be released to Grove Creek. This project will alleviate health hazards due to private septic or aeration systems that discharge effluent into drainage fields, causing raw sewage backups in homes during major rainfalls. The new system will serve the town’s 778 residents.
  • In Baudette, Minn., the Wheelers Point Sanitary District is receiving a $300,000 loan and a $638,000 grant to construct a sewer collection system. The District is on the shores of Lake of the Woods and the Rainy River in Lake of the Woods County in northern Minnesota. Homes and businesses in the district have individual septic systems that need to be replaced. If these systems were to fail, the contamination would affect the river and the lake. The state considers this project a priority due to the possibility of environmental contamination. The new system will protect the environment and area waters.
USDA is announcing investments today in Alabama, California, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
In FY 2018, Congress provided a historic level of funding for water and wastewater infrastructure. The 2018 Omnibus spending bill includes $5.2 billion for USDA loans and grants, up from $1.2 billion in FY 2017. The bill also directs Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to make investments in rural communities with the greatest infrastructure needs.
In April 2017, President Donald J. Trump established the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes that could promote agriculture and prosperity in rural communities. In January 2018, Secretary Perdue presented the Task Force’s findings to President Trump. These findings included 31 recommendations to align the federal government with state, local and tribal governments to take advantage of opportunities that exist in rural America. Increasing investments in rural infrastructure is a key recommendation of the task force.
To view the report in its entirety, please view the Report to the President of the United States from the Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity (PDF, 5.4 MB). In addition, to view the categories of the recommendations, please view the Rural Prosperity infographic (PDF, 190 KB).
USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community services such as schools, public safety, and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.
Source: USDA

Record to well-above normal snowpack primed to melt across the state of Montana.

FROM NRCS:  After a winter and spring that dropped seemingly non-stop snowfall across most of Montana, spring runoff is finally here. April started just like many of the other months so far this snow season, with abundant precipitation falling and continuing to build the mountain snowpack, according to snow survey data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Some areas in southwest Montana set new records for April precipitation (Gallatin and Madison valleys), and almost all areas except the Rocky Mountain Front and Hi-Line received near to above normal precipitation. “The crazy fact about this April was that average to well-above average precipitation fell during the first 18 days of the month; the latter half of the month was dominated by high pressure with abundant sunshine and well-above-average temperatures,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana.

Early April precipitation only continued to add to a snowpack that was well-above normal across the state, and the snowpack was record-setting in the Upper Clark Fork, Blackfoot and Clark’s Fork (Yellowstone) River basins. Peak snow water equivalent in these basins exceeded prior record years of 1975, 1997 and 2011, and occurred during the third week of the month. Many SNOTEL sites and snowcourses in these basins remain record for May 1 even though melt has already started at low to mid-elevations.

“Snowpack percentages are incredibly high for this date across the state, and in almost all river basins,” Zukiewicz said. “At some point in the spring, I stopped getting excited by the continued snowfall, and started worrying about it.”

The NRCS forecasts long-duration streamflows for water users across the state, and the May 1 – July 31 forecasts reflect the well-above normal snowpack across the state and are above to well-above average in almost all river basins. Even though the agency forecasts long-term volumes, it works closely with cooperators in the National Weather Service, Bureau of Reclamation, and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to provide information to them on current snowpack conditions and forecasted volumes in order to manage reservoirs and issue information to the public regarding the coming runoff.

Water managers in the state have been actively managing reservoirs in anticipation of the well-above-average runoff in some basins, and reservoirs in some systems had been dropped to near historic levels before runoff began in mid-to-late April. Since late January the Bureau of Reclamation has dropped Hungry Horse Reservoir in the Flathead River basin nearly 70 feet, and in the Sun River basin, Gibson Reservoir was dropped to close to a record low on April 1.

“Active management in the river systems with reservoirs this year has been great to see with the huge snowpack we have, but water users on non-controlled streams and rivers will be at the mercy of the weather this year with regards to snowmelt runoff,” Zukiewicz said.

Active snowmelt runoff began mid-month across the state, with low-elevation melt causing substantial increases in river and stream flows. “In many cases, the large increases in flows were from elevations below what we measure with our current monitoring network,” he said. “Valley and plains snow this year was abundant due to the below normal temperatures. When it and the low elevation mountain snowpack started to melt, it resulted in quick increases in flows in many rivers and streams.” Snowpack remains well-above normal for this date at almost all water yielding elevations, meaning that the bulk of the snow water remains to enter the rivers and streams.

The official National Weather Service flood potential forecasts across the state indicate there is significant potential for flooding along some rivers and streams this spring and summer, something that is already occurring. “Ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see how fast the snowpack comes out this year, but the potential is there for big flows to occur with the amount of snow still left in the mountains,” Zukiewicz said. “A long period of sunny days with above average temperatures or a rain-on-snow event would be a game changer. A close eye should be kept on the weather forecasts this spring and summer, especially if you live in a low-lying area near a river or stream.”

Current snowpack conditions and long-term streamflow forecasts can be found in this month’s NRCS Montana Water Supply Outlook Report, which can be found at the website below after the 5th business day of the month:

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/mt/snow/waterproducts/basin/

 

Snowpack Still on the Rise, Well Above Average, and Setting Records in Some Parts of Montana

From NRCS:

Unlike February, snowfall wasn’t record-breaking in Montana during March, but it was sufficient to keep the snowpack near to well above normal on April 1, according to snow survey data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “One thing is for sure; it’s been a snowy winter across the state of Montana,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana, “and there’s still more to come.”

Last month, records were set for both monthly totals for February snowfall, and for total snowpack accumulation on March 1. Many snowpack measuring locations that feed Montana’s rivers and streams remain record high for April 1. Ten SNOwpack TELemetry (SNOTEL) and snowcourse locations remain the highest on record for this date, and 12 measurement locations are the second highest on record. These sites can be found in the mountains that feed the Upper Yellowstone River, Upper Clark Fork and Missouri Mainstem River basins, where snowfall has been abundant throughout the winter months. “Although not record-setting like these regions, the snowpack in other river basins across the state is well above normal for this time of year,” Zukiewicz said.

2018 is looking to go down as one of the biggest snow years on record for some parts of the state, prompting questions on how it compares to other memorable snowpack years. “1972, 1997, 2011 and 2014 were all big winters across the state, and many are wondering how this year compares,” Zukiewicz said. “So far, the only snowpack that has topped all other water years for peak snow water contained in the snowpack is the area near Cooke City which feeds the Clark’s Fork River of the Yellowstone River.”

For the most part, the snowpack in the rest of the state hasn’t reached the levels of 1997, 2011 and 2014. “During those years, snowpack peaked at the beginning of May to early June. For now, it looks like there is still a lot of winter left to come and this year could break more records if it keeps going.” Zukiewicz said.

Long-range predictions by the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center continue to forecast above average precipitation and below average temperatures through the end of April.

Due to the abundant snowfall, many measurement locations have already reached, or exceeded, the normal amount of snow water that is typically contained in the snowpack before runoff occurs, all but assuring at least normal surface water supply this spring and summer, Zukiewicz said. Long-duration volumetric streamflow forecasts issued for the April 1 – July 31 period are well above average for most stream gages in the state, and could approach record levels this spring and summer at the stream gage at Belfry, Mont., located along Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone.

“Having a big snowpack is a double-edged sword,” Zukiewicz said. “You know there will be plenty of snowpack to feed the rivers, which is typically great news, but the uncertainty of how and when it will come out can keep you up at night.”

The coming month will be critical in determining how much water is available in the snowpack for runoff this spring, and the day-to-day and week-by-week weather patterns during May and June will determine the timing and volumes of water in Montana. Water users are encouraged to read the May 1, 2018, NRCS Water Supply Outlook Report, which will summarize the conditions that occurred over the month of April, and help water users prepare for runoff this spring and summer.

Individual point forecasts for streams and rivers can be found in the monthly NRCS Water Supply Outlook Report and should be consulted as conditions vary from basin to basin, and even within the basins themselves.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found at the website below after the 5th business day of the month:

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/mt/snow/waterproducts/basin/

April 1, 2018, Snow Water Equivalent

River Basin % of Normal % Last Year
Columbia 137 134
Kootenai, Montana 128 122
Flathead, Montana 136 130
Upper Clark Fork 156 170
Bitterroot 134 128
Lower Clark Fork 124 117
Missouri 133 145
Jefferson 135 134
Madison 124 118
Gallatin 130 148
Headwaters Mainstem 169 190
Smith-Judith-Musselshell 130 186
Sun-Teton-Marias 142 122
St. Mary-Milk 140 149
Yellowstone River Basin 135 102
Upper Yellowstone 152 128
Lower Yellowstone 121 85
West of the Divide 137 134
East of the Divide 133 119
Montana State-Wide 137 137

April 1, 2018, Precipitation

River Basin Monthly % of Average Water Year % of Average Water Year % of Last Year
Columbia 93 123 95
Kootenai, Montana 93 113 81
Flathead, Montana 101 129 96
Upper Clark Fork 103 130 114
Bitterroot 99 119 100
Lower Clark Fork 69 115 85
Missouri 111 119 95
Jefferson 117 111 93
Madison 121 113 82
Gallatin 113 124 98
Headwaters Mainstem 111 137 120
Smith-Judith-Musselshell 90 117 111
Sun-Teton-Marias 90 136 104
St. Mary-Milk 107 130 88
Yellowstone River Basin 98 122 83
Upper Yellowstone 99 138 95
Lower Yellowstone 98 108 72
West of the Divide 93 123 95
East of the Divide 103 121 89
Montana State-Wide 102 124 95

April-July 50% Exceedance Forecasts

River Basin Highest Point Forecast* Lowest Point Forecast** Basin Average Forecast***
Columbia 231% 107% 134%
Kootenai, Montana 124% 110% 118%
Flathead, Montana 158% 112% 131%
Upper Clark Fork 231% 148% 170%
Bitterroot 128% 113% 121%
Lower Clark Fork 144% 107% 130%
Missouri 174% 95% 125%
Jefferson 161% 95% 126%
Madison 114% 111% 113%
Gallatin 123% 115% 120%
Headwaters Mainstem 135% 128% 132%
Smith-Judith-Musselshell 174% 117% 141%
Sun-Teton-Marias 141% 99% 123%
St. Mary 123% 119% 121%
Yellowstone River Basin 194% 83% 133%
Upper Yellowstone 194% 97% 147%
Lower Yellowstone 159% 83% 119%

Note: Streamflow forecasts are issued for multiple points on rivers and streams within a major river basin and are given as a range of exceedance probabilities. Consult the individual river basin of interest to see the range of values for streams of interest.

*Highest point forecast is the highest 50% forecast of all forecast points within the basin.

**Lowest point forecast is the lowest 50% forecast of all forecast points within the basin.

***Basin average forecast is an average of all 50% forecasts within the basin.

Off to a Good Start this Winter, Montana Snowpack Currently the Best in the Western U.S.

From NRCS:

The snowpack across most of the western U.S. isn’t looking good in most states, but it’s a different story in the state of Montana, according to snowpack data collected by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

After a hot and dry summer, snowfall began at the end of September in the Treasure State, helping to alleviate fire concerns and beginning the seasonal snowpack at high elevations. Many basins began the new 2018 water year (starting Oct. 1) with at least some snow on the ground at the higher elevations, and most basins had snow at all elevations by the beginning of November. Consistent snowfall statewide during November increased snowpack totals through the third week of the month before a warm and dry period near the holiday melted some low elevation snow and slowed mountain accumulation. The early December lull in snowfall lasted through the middle of the month before the pattern made a major change.

The latter half of December brought substantial snowfall across the state and helped many basins improve from below normal in mid-December to near to well above normal on Jan. 1. During that same time, SNOTEL sites west of the Divide received up to 10.9 inches of snow water equivalent from storms, raising basin percentages in all western basins. While the most recent storm favored basins west of the Divide, basins east of the Divide also received up to 7.5 inches of snow water in south-central basins.

“The snowpack in Montana is off to a great start across the state, and it’s nice to brag about it, but it’s really important to remember that there is a lot of winter left to come,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist for Montana. He said typically, by this time of the year, about 40 to 50 percent of the seasonal snowpack has accumulated west of the Divide and 30 to 40 percent of the snowpack has accumulated east of the Divide.

“Really, it’s the April 1 and May 1 snow totals that mean the most for water users in Montana. By then we should have a better idea of the amount of water being stored in the statewide snowpack, and how that will impact water users during the spring and summer,” said Zukiewicz. Looking forward, Zukiewicz said the early spring months are critical when it comes to snowfall and water supply in the state, and continued consistent snowfall could put water users in a great position come the spring when the snowmelt begins. Only time will tell, he continued.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found here after the 5th business day of the month:
http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/mt/snow/waterproducts/basin/

Consider filing for “Exempt” Water Rights

– by Krista Lee Evans

Water rights are a property right critical to agricultural production, that water users need to protect.

In the early 1980’s, at the beginning of the adjudication process, the Montana Supreme Court issued an order that all water users who wanted to claim a right to use water that was put to use before 1973 had to file a claim with the Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC).   The Court did, however, provide two exceptions to this requirement – instream stock use and domestic use – that was used prior to 1973.  These are the “Exempt From Filing” Water Rights that we now have the chance to address.

This year’s passage of HB 110 provided a means to protect these property rights by clarifying the opportunity to file a claim for any “exempt” instream stock or domestic rights that were put to use prior to 1973, and that have not been claimed in the adjudication process.

It is important that we recognize the significant opportunity that this provides to Montana’s water users because it most likely will not occur again in the future.

Remember, it is not mandatory that you file; and if a water user chooses not to file for their pre-1973 “exempt from filing” claims, they do not lose their water right, but those rights will be subordinated to all other water rights on the stream.

Landowners should double check all of their water rights to make sure that they reflect their water use.

My advice is that if your property has any instream livestock water rights (meaning where stock drink directly from the source with no diversion), or domestic water rights (such as a home or stock well) that were put to use prior to 1973, and have not been claimed in the adjudication process, then you should seriously consider submitting a claim under the current process.

You can search for your water rights online by going to DNRC’s website water right query at http://wrqs.dnrc.mt.gov/default.aspx

 

 

 

From a long-time ranching family in central Montana, Krista Lee Evans now lives in Helena where she owns Blake Creek Project Management, Inc.  Evans has worked as a consultant in Montana’s water rights policy arena for over 15 years.

Snowmelt Causes Rivers and Streams to Rise across Montana, More to Come

Rivers and streams are running high across the state of Montana from May snowmelt, and most have been above average for daily streamflows throughout the month. Data from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service showed that snowpack at high elevations in most basins peaked during the first week of May, but saw a rapid transition to melt shortly afterwards.

“The high pressure which dominated the weather patterns this month brought abundant sunshine, mostly dry conditions, and above average temperatures—the perfect combination for snowmelt,” said Lucas Zukiewicz, NRCS water supply specialist.

Some snow did fall in the high country over the month, adding to snowpack totals. SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetry) sites along and east of the Divide were treated to up to 31 inches of snow on May 18, providing one last day of powder skiing for those that were motivated to hike for it, Zukiewicz said. More importantly, he said this storm also helped to slow the snowmelt which was occurring a little quicker than normal due to the persistent warm and sunny weather.

Peak snow accumulation was above normal in many basins in the state, although a few central basins were below normal throughout the year with regards to snowpack. On June 1 many basins have snowpack in place that remains near to above normal for this date, but it has been melting faster than normal.

“To some extent, the above normal snowpack totals this year have been able to offset the rapid melt rates experienced during the month of May, leaving us near to above normal for today, but continued sunny and warm weather could move what’s left in the hills faster than we’d like to see it come out.” Zukiewicz  explained prolonged snowmelt is beneficial in many ways. It helps to keep water in the rivers later into the summer, keeps river temperatures down, and keeps water available to the irrigators in the state when demand is high.

Some basins that feed Montana from the south experienced record snowpack, causing concern over how much water would enter the rivers and reservoirs, and just how quickly the snowpack would melt out. “So far what has happened has been ideal,” Zukiewicz said. “The snowmelt spigot has been turned on and off a few times this month due to the periods of cooler weather, releasing the water in phases instead of one big push.”

With snowpack well above normal, there is still a large volume of water waiting to melt in the mountains of the Wind and Shoshone River basins. Federal and State water managers have worked diligently to plan for and manage the anticipated river flows, Zukiewicz said.

Long duration seasonal volume forecasts issued by the NRCS on June 1 indicate near to above average streamflows for the June-September period in many locations, but vary by basin. However, the weather over the next few weeks will play a critical role in the timing and magnitudes of flows in the rivers across the state of Montana through the summer. “Everyone is ready to get out and enjoy the mountains of the state, but cool and wet weather, and keeping the snow up in the hills as long as we can, will be better in the long run,” Zukiewicz said.

Monthly Water Supply Outlook Reports can be found here after the 5th business day of the month:http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/mt/snow/waterproducts/basin/

The Importance of Water Quality in Livestock Production

megan van emon msu extension beef specialistBy Dr. Megan Van Emon, MSU Extension Beef Cattle Specialist

Water is the most essential nutrient for livestock production and is needed for numerous processes, such as the regulation of body temperature, growth, digestion, reproduction, metabolism, lubrication of joints, excretion, eyesight, etc. Water is also an excellent solvent for amino acids, minerals, glucose, vitamins, and metabolic waste.

Water requirements are influenced by a number of factors, including gestation, lactation, rate and composition of gain, type of diet, activity, environmental temperature, and feed intake. The intake of water from feeds plus the ad libitum consumption of free water is the equivalent of the water requirements in livestock. Ad libitum access to clean, fresh water is essential to maintaining feed intake in livestock. According to the NRC (1996), a wintering 1100 pound gestating cow needs to consume between 6 gallons at 40°F and 9 gallons at 70°F of water per day and the requirements double for a lactating cow. However, the requirements do not take in to account the distance cows must travel to the water source.

The water provided to livestock needs to be good quality to maintain production. Water quality may be altered by contaminants, such as mineral salts, toxins, heavy metals, microbial loads, debris, and agricultural practices. Most contaminants will reduce water intake, which results in a reduction in feed intake and a loss of production. However, if the water or feed contains increased salt, water intake will increase as the animal attempts to eliminate the excess sodium. Total dissolved solids (TDS) are measured to determine the saltiness of the water. Table 1 describes the recommendations and effects of increasing concentrations of TDS in the water.

Total Dissolved Solids Water QualityWater with high concentrations of TDS, may have high concentrations of nitrates and/or sulfates. High sulfate concentrations in water can lead to polioencephalomalacia (polio).  High sulfate water tastes bitter and water intake may be reduced. High concentrations of sulfate may also cause a reduction in copper availability in livestock, which can lead to copper deficiency. Producers should be aware of water sulfate concentrations when feeding high sulfur feedstuffs, such as distillers grains or corn gluten feed, and feeds containing high concentrations of molybdenum.  If livestock are consuming high sulfate water, additional copper supplementation may need to be considered.

Similar to nitrates in forages, water with high nitrate concentrations can also be toxic. Nitrate from the water is converted to nitrite within the rumen, which can be toxic by decreasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of hemoglobin. Producers should especially be aware of water nitrate concentrations when feeding forages with high nitrate concentrations.

Other contaminants include bacteria, which can be toxic to livestock. High bacteria concentrations can cause infertility, foot rot, low milk production, and other reproductive problems. Stagnant water that is contaminated with manure and other contaminants can develop blue-green algae, which may be toxic to livestock. It is crucial to maintain a clean, fresh water supply to maintain health and performance of livestock.

Eastern Montana Irrigators Work to Provide for Fish Habitat, Challenged By Lawsuit

Irrigation Ranchers HandsIrrigators in Eastern Montana find themselves in the midst of a lawsuit involving a 100-year-old diversion dam and habitat for the pallid sturgeon. Despite efforts made by irrigators to provide project allowances to protect fish habitat, environmentalist groups are pressing forward with damage claims.

On August 27, a preliminary injunction hearing will be held to stop construction on modifications to the Intake Diversion Dam on the Lower Yellowstone River in front of Judge Morris at the Federal District Court. The diversion dam, dating back to 1905, was constructed to divert water into a main canal in order to provide dependable water supply sufficient to irrigate over 50,000 acres of land.

In February, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) filed a lawsuit charging that Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in operating two dams in the upper Missouri River Basin, which are endangering the pallid sturgeon.

Plaintiffs claim the Intake Diversion Dam on the Yellowstone River blocks pallid sturgeon from reaching critical spawning grounds. The groups also claim timing and temperature of water releases from the Fort Peck Dam destroy the sturgeons’ spawning and rearing habitat in the main stem Missouri.

Current construction plans provide special consideration to protect the migration paths and habitat of the fish. This includes necessary updates to the diversion provide for development of a fish bypass and placement of a concrete weir that supplies the irrigation project in order to protect the migration paths and habitat of the fish.

According to Dr. Gary Brester, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University, “the annual average total crop value produced by this irrigation district (over the past five years) is estimated to be slightly more than $54 million.” Mr. Brester goes on to state that if irrigation were to cease, production values for this area would face an estimated $40 million reduction, representing a substantial decline in economic activity.

Jim Steinbeisser, District Director for Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) and irrigation project user, also identifies the importance of the 100-year-old diversion dam to irrigators in the area, “Our community depends on this project for the many jobs that it creates due to the productiveness of the valley, and the stability that irrigation water provides,” says Steinbeisser.

Due to the critical importance of this lawsuit, Gene Curry, President of MSGA, also filed a declaration.  Mr. Curry stated, “The irrigated fields within this project area, provide a significant grazing resource for livestock, which would also be critically reduced with the loss of irrigation. Livestock producers would be forced to look for alternative grazing pastures outside the area, reducing the livestock herd or complete dispersion of the herd if other grazing opportunities are not available.”

In order to address ESA concerns in 2007, the Corps received authorization to assist the Bureau of Reclamation with protecting fish from becoming entrained in the irrigation canal and improving fish passage at the diversion dam. Construction of a new headworks structure with screens to reduce fish entrainment in the irrigation canal was completed in spring 2012.

A second phase in the project included a supplemental Environmental Assessment that identified alternatives to modify the existing diversion dam located in Intake, to improve passage for endangered pallid sturgeon and other native fish in the lower Yellowstone River.

The Bureau and Corps stated in their decision, “the action alternative would both be expected to improve fish passage for pallid sturgeon and other native fish, and are not expected to result in any long-term adverse impacts to any threatened or endangered species, or species of special concern.” The current lawsuit has challenged this decision.

Montana Stockgrowers previously submitted formal comments regarding project modifications and will continue to provide input where needed. MSGA believes the work proposed in the EA will allow agencies to address fish migration concerns and provide for irrigators who are of great importance to the area’s communities and economy.

Montana and 12 Other States Challenge New EPA & Corps of Engineers Regulation

Montana water ranching updatesOn Monday (June 29), Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and 12 other states filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) over the new regulation broadly expanding the definition of “Waters of the U.S.” under the Clean Water Act. The case was filed in the U.S. district court for the District of North Dakota.

In their complaint, the states contend the new definition of “Waters of the U.S.” violates provisions of the Clean Water Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the United States Constitution.

“Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court have rejected the very regulatory expansion that the EPA and Corps of Engineers are implementing through this new rule,” Attorney General Fox said. “This is yet another example of a federal agency acting by decree to bypass Congress and violate rights of states reserved under the law and the U.S. Constitution.”

The states assert that the EPA’s and Corps’ new rule wrongly broadens federal authority by placing a majority of water and land resource management in the hands of the federal government. Congress and the courts have repeatedly affirmed that the states have primary responsibility for the protection of intrastate waters and land management. The states argue that the burdens created by these new regulations on waters and lands are harmful and will negatively affect farmers, ranchers, and landowners. As a result, landowners will have to seek additional federal permits or face substantial fines and federal criminal enforcement actions.

“Clean water is important to all of us, and we Montanans know how to protect our waters,” Fox said. “Through our state Constitution, the 1971 Water Quality Control Act, and other legislation, we have established strong water protections tailored to the unique needs of our communities. These new federal regulations add a complicated and unnecessary layer of rules.”

The states are asking the court to vacate the rule and enjoin the EPA and Corps from enforcing the new, significantly expanded definition of “Waters of the U.S.”

Senator Brad Hamlett (D-Cascade), chairman of the legislature’s Water Policy Interim Committee, spoke in support of the lawsuit. “Montana’s Constitution states that all of the water that falls and flows within the boundaries of Montana belongs to the state for the beneficial use of its citizens,” Sen. Hamlett said. “Now we have two federal executive branch agencies, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, attempting to assert control over Montana state waters by rule. This is, in my opinion, unconstitutional, a deliberate interference with our state’s most valuable resource, and must be stopped dead in its tracks. This is not about clean water, it is about jurisdiction, as Montana being a headwaters state cherishes and protects its waters and knowing the lay of the land and our waters best we definitely, constitutionally, and practically need to remain in control.”

Montana’s local governments and agricultural community also expressed their support of Attorney General Fox’s decision to challenge the new federal regulations.

“The Montana Association of Counties is pleased that Attorney General Fox is joining other states in challenging these new regulations,” said Harold Blattie, executive director of the Montana Association of Counties. “The EPA and Corps failed to consider concerns expressed by over 40 Montana counties about placing an undue burden on their ability to perform routine road maintenance. The final regulation lacks the clarity for counties to even be able to tell which roadside ditches are now under the EPA’s and Corps’ jurisdiction and which are not.”

“In our initial review of the finalized Waters of the U.S. regulation, it represents a significant expansion of federal jurisdiction beyond current practices and the limitations affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Errol Rice, Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The final regulation ignores state and local efforts to protect these waters and will have major implications for all Montanans. As ranchers who already have practices in place to promote water quality, we see the final regulation as problematic to implement and causing more harm and confusion rather than clarifying the law.”

“Farmers and ranchers are still very concerned with the EPA’s new regulation,” said Nicole Rolf of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation. “It takes power away from state and local governments, while at the same time burdening farmers and ranchers with unnecessary and ridiculous rules. We very much appreciate that Attorney General Tim Fox recognizes these problems and is willing to defend Montanans who make their living raising food.”

The Montana Chamber of Commerce, Montana Building Industry Association, Montana Contractors Association, and the Montana Association of Realtors are also in support of the legal challenge.

Joining Montana in the suit are the states of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

–Press Release, Attorney General Tim Fox


WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Monday, Senator Steve Daines released the following statement on Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and 12 other states’ lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) over the new regulation broadly expanding the definition of the Waters of the United States rule (WOTUS).

“I applaud Attorney General Tim Fox for standing up for Montana farmers, ranchers and small businesses against another egregious power grab by the Obama administration. This rule has the capability to cripple Montana agriculture and natural resources, hurt Montana jobs and threaten Montanans’ property rights.  As this lawsuit moves through the judicial system, I will continue to fight tirelessly against the EPA’s overreach to protect Montana jobs, agriculture and natural resources.”

Daines is a cosponsor of S. 1140, the Federal Water Quality Protection Act that would direct the EPA and Corps to issue a revised WOTUS rule that protects traditional navigable water from water pollution, while also protecting farmers, ranchers and private landowners.

The full text of S.1140 is available here.