The Montana House is considering HB 561, sponsored by Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) and supported by Realtors and developers. It expands a detrimental loophole in the state's groundwater permitting system. This loophole, which Montana TU has been trying to close for several years, currently allows unlimited use of so called "exempt" ground water wells. Exempt wells are those that do not produce more than 30 gallons per minute or 10-acre-feet per year. They are exempt from any permits or evaluation of their individual and cumulative impacts on nearby trout streams and senior water rights. HB 561 codifies a scheme that would allow developers to cluster an infinite number of exempt wells in subdivisions so that large-scale depletion of groundwater sources that recharge streams would not be evaluated by state officials or subject to permits.
The cumulative effect of developments with many exempt wells can result in less groundwater for connected trout streams that already suffer from seasonal dewatering.
Contact YOUR House member TODAY and tell him or her to oppose HB 561 because:
- It sanctions unlimited use of groundwater without any determination of how it will affect senior water right holders, such as local irrigators.
- It will result in depletions of local streams where existing users already have water rights.
- It will reduce streamflows in important fisheries.
- Reasonable alternatives have been offered and exist that ensure future groundwater development can occur in Montana but on an orderly basis without further harming streams or existing users.
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Call the legislative switchboard at (406) 444-4800 and leave a message.
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For more information, contact Mark Aagenes at email@example.com
Stay informed! Get involved! For information about issues affecting trout and their watersheds, check out Montana Trout Unlimited at montanatu.org or on FaceBook and Twitter @MontanaTU.