Butte marks opening of $30M water treatment plant
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — State and local officials say a new $30 million water treatment plant means Butte will have some of the cleanest drinking water in the nation.
The Montana Standard reports the Basin Creek Water Treatment Plant south of the city will treat water using a ceramic-membrane filter system.
Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Dave Palmer, speaking at a ribbon cutting ceremony on Wednesday, says there’s no reason for Butte residents to buy bottled water anymore.
For decades, water from the reservoir was so pristine a little chlorine was added but no filtering was needed to make it safe to drink. Federal and state regulators determined the filtering was needed in 2011.
The plant was funded by state and local natural resource damage funds.
Bullock appoints new political practices commissioner
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has appointed a former Great Falls legislator as the next Montana commissioner of political practices.
Bullock’s office announced Jeff Mangan’s appointment on Wednesday. He will replace outgoing Commissioner Jonathan Motl and serve a six-year term if he is confirmed by the Senate.
Mangan was a Democrat in the state House and Senate from 1999 to 2006. After his time in the Legislature, he joined the Great Falls Airport Authority as a commissioner and later its chairman.
His was one of two candidates forwarded to Bullock by four Republican and Democratic legislative leaders. The other was Ben Tiller, a staff attorney for the Montana state auditor.
Bullock spokeswoman Ronja Abel says Mangan will continue Motl’s good work and ensure that the state’s elections are free and fair.
Judge in endangered fish lawsuit lifts hold on Montana dam
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A judge has lifted his hold on a proposed irrigation dam and fish passage that U.S. officials say is the best hope to save an endangered ancient species of fish in the Yellowstone River.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday sided with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation, despite arguments from wildlife groups that question whether the 125 wild pallid sturgeon in the river would use the fish passage.
The long-snouted fish can grow up to 6 feet long and have been around since the time of dinosaurs. Their passage to upstream spawning grounds has been blocked for decades by a rock weir that diverts water for hundreds of eastern Montana farms.
Officials plan to begin construction on the $59 million dam and fish bypass in July.
Senate panel endorses governor’s Corrections Department pick
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A legislative committee has endorsed the nomination of a Miami probation officer to lead Montana’s Department of Corrections.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday sent the nomination of Reginald Michael to the full Senate. If confirmed, he would lead an agency that oversees the state’s prisons, youth correctional facilities and probation services. He would supervise about 1,300 employees.
He would also play a role in addressing the challenges faced by state’s criminal justice system, including overcrowded facilities and reducing the number of repeat offenders.
The post has been vacant since January when the former corrections chief retired.
In announcing his pick, Gov. Steve Bullock said he was impressed with Michael’s 30-year career in the criminal justice system. Michael oversaw the fourth largest U.S. probation agency in the country.
The Latest: Jury ends day of work in Bundy standoff trial
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A jury spent a third full day together but did not reach a verdict in the federal trial of six men who brought assault-style weapons to a standoff that stopped government agents from rounding up cattle near Cliven Bundy’s ranch in April 2014.
A court official said Wednesday that jurors will return to deliberations on Thursday in U.S. District Court
The jury deliberated about three hours Thursday before returning for full days Monday and Tuesday.
Trial took two months, and each defendant faces 10 charges including threatening and assaulting a federal officer, extortion, obstruction, weapon violations and conspiracy.
The standoff near Bunkerville was seen as a victory by states’ rights advocates in an ongoing battle over federal control of vast rangelands in the West.
Energy measure sparks last-minute legislative drama
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An energy bill pushed by state regulators and opposed by NorthWestern Energy has provided some last-minute drama in the waning days of the legislative session.
Lobbyists swarmed the Capitol on Wednesday in advance of another vote on a measure that sought to bar the utility from passing on its entire cost of buying emergency power to its 360,000 Montana customers.
Last week, a legislative maneuver to blast it out of committee failed by two votes. On Tuesday, another blast motion unexpectedly succeeded. A floor debate ensued. A few minds changed and the measure squeaked through for Wednesday’s final vote.
NorthWestern lobbyists tried to kill the measure, as officials from the Public Services Commission sought to hang on to votes.
In the end, the measure prevailed 29-21.