U.S. Sens. Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Jon Tester (D-Montana) and U.S. Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana) on Jan. 10 introduced a bill to authorize hydropower in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Sun River Project, including at the Gibson Dam.

“Hydropower provides safe, reliable and affordable energy to Montanans across the state,” Daines said in a news release. “The Sun River Project and Gibson Dam have the potential to increase hydropower production and bring jobs and revenue to the community. This is a win-win and I look forward to this bill becoming law, so we can continue work on this critical project.”

Tester said, “The Gibson Dam has needed an update for years, and this legislation will finally make it happen by cutting red tape and authorizing the project for hydropower generation. This project will bring new energy opportunities to northern Montana and bring new revenue and jobs into the community. It’s a great deal for irrigators and energy production, and I’m looking forward to working with Senator Daines and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get it passed.”

Rosendale said, “The Gibson Dam in northwest [sic] Montana was built with hydropower generation in mind. But the generation of clean, reliable power through the Bureau of Reclamation has not been possible for nearly a century because of the project’s current authorization. I’m proud to introduce the Sun River Hydropower Authorization Act in the House to enable Greenfields Irrigation District to harness the benefits of hydropower generation, while protecting access for irrigators.”

In 2018, the bill from Daines, Tester and Gianforte to provide an extension of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license for the dam became law. The license will soon expire, so the delegation is working to ensure the Gibson Dam has the necessary authorizations for hydropower development.

Erling Juel, the GID manager, said in the same press release, “The governing board of the Greenfields Irrigation District, who represent over 750 landowners and water users, would appreciate your congressional assistance to amend Reclamation’s Authorization for the Sun River Project to include hydropower development by GID as that is what was intended when Gibson Dam was designed and built.”

Montana House District 17 Rep. Ross Fitzgerald, a Fairfield Republican, said, “I overwhelmingly support the permanent authorization under the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation license for the Gibson Dam Hydro Project near Augusta, Montana. A positive decision supporting the authorizing of hydropower for the Sun River Project is a high priority of House District 17 and all of Montana.”

State Sen. Bruce “Butch” Gillespie, who represents HD 17 in the state Senate, said, “I would like to enthusiastically endorse our Montana congressional delegation to work hard and quickly on a bill to achieve permanent authorization of hydropower under USBR referred to in the Sun River Hydropower Authorization Act. This permanent authorization will result in a real boost to a rural area that works very hard to produce high quality feed and food resources for urban consumers. Thank you to our Congressional Delegation for their continued efforts on Montana's behalf.”