Gauging Success in the Legislature
Montana Watershed Coordination Council is excited that our first year of legislative involvement resulted in the passing of Senate Bill 32, “An Act Creating a Stream Gauge Oversight Work Group; Revising Duties of the Drought and Water Supply Advisory Committee.”
The concept of coordinating information and entities regarding Montana’s stream gauge infrastructure emerged as a question to State of Montana agency directors at the MWCC 2018 Annual Meeting. Since that time, MWCC has been taken part in and facilitated the discussion among stakeholders – including watershed coordinators, local producers, and state and federal agency personnel – on a process and outcome for coordinating stream gauge information and planning for the sustainability of critical stream gauge infrastructure.
This group was at the center of drafting and demonstrating broad stakeholder support for the revisions to § 2-15-3308, MCA, which directs the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Committee to oversee a work group that will meet at least semi annually to review:
- locations, uses, and funding arrangements for the stream gauge network of the U.S. geological survey; and
- priorities, needs, and expectations of those funding the maintenance and operations of these stream gauges and those using data measured by these stream gauges.
The work group shall create annually a stream gauge infrastructure work plan, which may include:
- a comprehensive overview of the existing stream gauge network;
- a review of options for funding the maintenance and operations of the stream gauge network, including use of private funds, consolidated agreements, or multipayer payments;
- a proposal for stream gauge priorities;
- cost-effective and reasonable alternatives to stream gauges, including gauges that are not part of the U.S. geological survey’s stream gauge network, if applicable;
- oversight of recommendations and activities related to any legislative study of stream gauges; and
- coordination of information regarding stream gauge funding recommendations and requests from state and federal agencies.
The work group will also report to the Water Policy Interim Committee.
MWCC plans to continue to be directly involved as well as support the involvement of the stakeholder group. If you would like to be informed of the progress of this effort or participate in our activities please email erin@mtwatersheds.
Of utmost importance to our group is that there continue to be broad stakeholder representation moving forward. Broad stakeholder involvement, including citizen involvement, has been at the heart of this effort throughout its development and legislative process. The original bill proposed a work group “composed of those with a stake in the collection and distribution of stream flow information.” The bill went through multiple versions that proposed varying levels of representation from the people on the ground working most directly with our water resources. All of the legislative history on the bill, including remarks from Representative Fitzgerald who carried the bill on the house floor, articulated a vision for an interagency work group that works with stakeholders to define the current stream gage network and develop solutions for maintaining the network into the future. Stakeholder involvement will ensure that work group outcomes are consistent with the needs identified by those stakeholders. A collaborative stakeholder approach has been central to this issue so far because it has been recognized as the best approach to ensuring solutions that will work where we need them most – with on the ground resource managers.
The Following Organizations joined MWCC in support of Senate Bill 32 in the Montana Legislature:
- Big Hole Watershed Committee
- Musselshell Watershed Coalition
- Greenfields Irrigation District
- Montana Association of Conservation Districts
- Blackfoot Challenge
- Sun River Watershed Group
- Montana Water Users Association
- Association of Gallatin Agricultural Irrigators and Senior Water Rights Coalition
- Trout Unlimited
- Montana Audubon
- Montana Public Interest Research
- Montana Farmers Union
Read the letter, authored by Montana Watershed Coordination Council and signed by our partners to the Governor’s Drought and Water Supply Committee, below.
Read the Text of Senate Bill 32 here.