Ballot measure I-191 carries unintended consequences

Senator Jill Cohenour

Jill Cohenour – Missoulian

As a member of the Montana Legislature’s bipartisan Water Policy Interim Committee, my colleagues and I had the opportunity to learn more about proposed ballot Initiative 191 at a recent hearing. I-191 seeks to designate over 100 miles of the Madison and Gallatin Rivers, and their tributaries, as Outstanding Resource Water (ORW), a designation only found in National Parks and wilderness areas.

At the hearing, we heard from dozens of Montanans, including policy experts and leaders from top economic sectors including agriculture, recreation, conservation, tourism, contracting, and many more. Those testifying shared concerns about the negative impact I-191 would have on Montanans.

While the proposed ballot measure in theory seeks to protect our waterways, it was abundantly clear that I-191 would cut important regulatory corners and would lead to unintended consequences. I am particularly concerned about two.