The Water Policy Interim Committee meets Oct. 12 to consider six pieces of draft legislation, including what may be the first step toward state assumption of federal Section 404 permitting. The committee is also seeking public input on these drafts.
If approved, the bills would be considered by the 2017 Legislature. The bills are:
- Limit adverse effects analysis. This bill lets a water rights holder to file a “consent to approval,” allowing an applicant for a new water right or change in a water right to ignore the adverse effect on an existing water right – and possibly clearing the way for the requested new right or change.
- Establish Surface Water Assessment and Monitoring Program. Under this bill, the Bureau of Mines and Geology formally establishes the SWAMP, which would continue to gather surface water data around Montana and provide real-time conditions.
- Allow Water Court review of certain Department of Natural Resources and Conservation decisions. This bill allows an appeal of a DNRC decision on a water right permit or change at the Water Court. Appeals are now taken to district court.
- Authorize Department of Environmental Quality assumption of dredge and fill permitting. This draft directs the department to “take all actions necessary” to gain federal permitting to assume the “dredge and fill” permitting program. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issues 404 permits in Montana, although the Clean Water Act allows states to assume this program.
- Modify duties and organization of river basin councils (2). These drafts eliminate two Clark Fork River watershed groups and formalize basin advisory councils across Montana. The DNRC used basin advisory councils to create the 2015 State Water Plan. One bill draft allows the DNRC to appoint council members; the other allows conservation district supervisors to appoint council members.
The WPIC will also discuss the recent Montana Supreme Court ruling related to exempt wells. Already, the committee has approved five bill drafts for the 2017 session.
The committee meets at 10 a.m. Oct. 12 in room 172 of the Capitol building. Public comments on the bill drafts may be sent to committee staff, which will be relayed to the committee. For the bill drafts and more information on the committee’s activities and upcoming meeting, visit the committee’s website or contact Jason Mohr, committee staff.
Committee Website: www.leg.mt.gov/water
Committee Staff: firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-444-1640