House Bill 309 is an attempt to modify Stream Access Law by redefining the term ‘ditch’.�
HB 309 broadly and vaguely defines “ditches” and will give private interest groups a HUGE stepping-stone toward privatizing our rivers.

Remember that recreational use of water in a ditch without landowner permission is prohibited in current stream access law.

HB309 has two key points that FOAM opposes:

    1) A live, flowing braid or channel can be defined as a ditch if there is any kind of control structure at the head of the live channel, including ‘natural features incorporated into the water conveyance system’;

     2) Recreational access is available only with landowner’s permission on water bodies created at least in part by waters diverted from a natural water body where the diverted water is the principal source of water in the water body.

 Think about low flows in August and September and the many Montana rivers and streams with side channels and braids that have diversion structures on them where return flow could be considered the ‘principle source of water’ in the river or stream.

The above rules could potentially turn natural side-channels of rivers, streams, and possibly whole rivers into ditches where recreational use is allowed only with landowner permission.

The bill was ‘heard’ on second reading yesterday in the House and passed by a vote of 55 Yes, 44 No.  It will face a similar vote today and probably pass by another close vote. 

Then, HB309 will be assigned to a senate sub-committee to be heard in early March. In the meantime, think about how HB309 could affect our business and your off-work recreation, then be ready to comment when the bill comes up in the Senate. 

If you’d like to head to Helena to testify, that would be very valuable: people are always more influential than messages.  You can always carpool to save expenses.  FOAM will be represented, as always, but our voices will add a lot to the arguments against HB309.

Click here to find your local Rep and tell them how you feel.  Montana House of Representatives

Jason Lanier
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