HELENA, Mont. (May 2, 2023) – Tuesday, the Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) joined Governor Greg Gianforte and bill sponsor, Representative Sue Vinton, for the signing of House Bill (HB) 114. The signing of HB 114 marks an important shift in the executive branch’s priority to cut red tape for business, including Montana’s number one industry, agriculture.
The solutions presented in the bill were a product of the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation’s (DNRC) comprehensive water review. Over the legislative interim, MSGA actively participated in the review process and attended multiple public meetings which worked to address challenges regarding water management and administration in the state of Montana. MSGA’s Executive Vice President, Raylee Honeycutt, also served on the Changes, Mitigation, and Exceptions Stakeholder Working Group from which this bill was derived.
HB114 overhauls the permit and change process. During the public process, water stakeholders frequently remark that the water permit and change process through DNRC’s Water Resources Division was not timely, transparent, streamlined, or consistent. A new permit could take several years to issue. Stakeholders expressed permitting inefficiencies which resulted in increased costs and incentivized alternative avenues of water acquisition, including illegal water use. HB114 responded to these concerns by:
- Shortening the overall process from 360 days to 105 days.
- Incentivizing a pre-application meeting to improve application quality and transparency.
- Ensuring a more timely and efficient water rights permit and change application processes.
- Allowing the DNRC to consider and address public comments on decision documents prior to the hearings process which leads to better decisions and reduces the costs for people engaged in water right permitting processes.
- Revamping the permit and change processes to frontload necessary analyses, reducing costs to water rights applicants and the need for application adjustments later in the permitting process.
- Creating clear statutory timelines for each step in the application process, eliminating gaps where statutory timelines do not exist, creating more certainty for applicants.
“An administrative process should not be a barrier to doing business. At the same time, there must be steps in place to ensure water right holders’ property is protected. This bill does both,” stated Raylee Honeycutt, MSGA Executive Vice President.
MSGA thanks Governor Gianforte for his administration’s leadership on HB 114, DNRC for their commitment and work on the comprehensive water review, and Representative Vinton for sponsoring the bill.
The Montana Stockgrowers Association is a grassroots membership organization and is the trusted voice of cattle ranchers. With over 135 years of history, MSGA advocates and ensures cattle ranching remains relevant, safe and a sustainable way of life for generations to come.
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