Celebrating the Drop 5 Ribbon Cutting

In 2017, after 75 years of receiving affordable project use power (PUP) from the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, the Kinsey Irrigation Company (KIC) and the Sidney Water Users Irrigation District (SWUID) of southeastern Montana were told that it had all been a mistake. The Bureau of Reclamation’s lawyers had determined that the two water providers’ access to PUP was due to a bookkeeping error and that only specific congressional legislation would enable them to use it again. 

Happily, 3 years later, that legislation was signed into law by President Trump, and the future of the KIC and the SWUID has been secured. One hundred thirty families will continue farming with irrigation. In this issue, we speak with KIC Project Coordinator Doug Martin and SWUID President Raymond Bell about the cooperative efforts and successful legislative process that led to this outcome. We also speak with Montana’s United States Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester; with Governor Greg Gianforte, who served as Montana’s at-large representative in the U.S. House of Representatives until January 2021; and with Mike Murphy, the executive director of the Montana Water Resources Association, about their roles in solving the problem. Honorable mention must be given to Kate Walker, Water Strategies’ lead lobbyist on this issue, for her tireless efforts in accomplishing the mission of our firm to help water users. 

We also speak with several businesspeople whose efforts are leading to irrigation advancements around the world. Paul Meeks of Worthington Products updates us on his company’s behavioral fish guidance systems, which are used at dams and diversion structures around the nation. Jim Conley, Rod Stone, and Felix Diaz of Control Design, Inc., tell us about their company’s industrial automation solutions, which can remotely monitor and control many different kinds of water conveyance and storage structures. And Harmen Heesen, CEO of New Zealand firm TechniPharm, tells us about his company’s Ecobag storage solution and other products. 

The legislation that helped preserve the KIC and the SWUID for future generations stands as an encouragement to us all. By mobilizing Montana’s agricultural and irrigation sectors, trade associations, and legislative delegations, the two water providers were able to get a common-sense legislative solution to their problem through Congress. It can be done—all it takes is diligence, cooperation, effective communications, and good people, all working together. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.