After unsuccessful past legislative attempts and in the wake of a significant court ruling, a legislative committee is seeking ideas to modify state policy revolving around exempt groundwater wells.
The Water Policy Interim Committee identified exempt groundwater wells as one of its study issues for the 2017-2018 interim. The committee meets Jan. 8-9 in room 172 of the Capitol in Helena.
State law allows an exemption from a water rights permit if a groundwater well is limited to 35 gallons a minute and 10 acre-feet a year. The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation has issued nearly 123,000 water right certificates for these wells, which are typically used for homes or farms. In recent sessions, the Legislature has passed bills seeking to modify that limit, only to meet with a governor’s veto. In 2016, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that DNRC had been misapplying state law and stated that an entire new subdivision or development may have to share one exemption — instead of allowing one well per lot.
Trout Unlimited will present a policy proposal on Jan. 9, and the committee is soliciting other ideas during public comment on the issue. Other issues related to exempt wells will also be discussed.
During the two-day meeting, which is the third meeting of the 2017-2018 interim, WPIC will also consider:
- water quality issues specifically related to nutrients in the Helena Valley and for applicants seeking a discharge permit in already polluted waters; and
- a before-and-after discussion of this summer’s wildfires, including a hydrologist’s look at some of the data that may have signaled the fiery season and a U.S. Forest Service report of the on-the-ground effects of the wildfires.
WPIC is led by Sen. Pat Connell (R-Hamilton), presiding officer, and Rep. Zach Brown (D-Bozeman), vice presiding officer. Other members are Sens. Jill Cohenour (D-East Helena), Jon Sesso (D-Butte), and Jeffrey Welborn (R-Dillon); and Reps. Bob Brown (R-Thompson Falls), John Fleming (D-St. Ignatius), and Carl Glimm (R-Kila).
The meeting will be live-streamed beginning at 10 a.m. Jan. 8 at www.leg.mt.gov and will be broadcast on Television Montana (TVMT). 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, visit the committee’s website or contact Jason Mohr, committee staff.
Committee Website: www.leg.mt.gov/water
Committee Staff: email@example.com or 406-444-1640