The Roundup -

New Irrigation District Law Passes/Lower Yellowstone Irrigation Project Supported Legislation


As a sign of large bi-partisan support between Democrats and Republicans, the Montana legislature has endorsed Senate Bill 252, sponsored by Senator Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive. Montana Governor Steve Bullock has now added his support for the bill by allowing the bill to become law this week. Earlier in the session the State Senate approved the bill 45 to 2 and a few weeks later the house added their approval with a final vote tally of 74 to 21.

The Rosendale bill addressed three main points important to irrigation election law. First, the new law recognizes that everyone who owns and is taxed on irrigated land deserves the right to vote on water taxes. Secondly, the bill now gives landowners one vote for each acre of irrigated land that they own. This includes small landowners that pay water taxes in housing districts located within the irrigation district boundaries. Lastly, the voting procedure has been clarified and easy to understand, doing away with the complicated proportional voting rules that had been in statute for many years.

Former State Senator and current Farm Bureau member, Ric Holden, linked up with Senator Matt Rosendale to draft the new law. Holden said, “Senator Rosendale was very good to work with, he listened to the irrigation districts’ concerns and then took action to move the proposed bill forward.” Holden noted that he provided the Senator with a proposed plan in writing, that could serve as a working blueprint for the legislation, that included projected costs, bill language and support for the legislation from around the state.

Senate Bill 252 received a wide range of support from the County Clerk & Recorders Association, Montana agriculture groups as well as several irrigation districts state wide. At the hearing in Helena, the County Clerk & Recorders Association stated that “we love this bill” based on the clarity the bill provides to local county election officials in implementing the law. Irrigation election law procedures have been difficult to administer as urban sprawl moved housing development out into the farming areas of Montana.

Based on the statewide support for the bill in the committee hearings Holden said, “Senator Rosendale has been a real friend to irrigation projects across the state.”


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