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By Isabel Hicks, Montana Right Now

Water levels

Montana water groups are watching a trio of bills that are steadily progressing through the Legislature, saying the policies would incentivize sprawling development and worsen the state’s already-degraded water quality.

The bills, which cleared their respective houses before last week’s transmittal deadline, would exempt smaller subdivisions from environmental analyses and permits that are in place to guard against water pollution.

Proponents for the exemptions argued they will speed up development needed to combat the affordable housing crisis and help the Montana Department of Environmental Quality use their resources most efficiently.

But opponents repeatedly pointed to the degraded quality of Montana waterways and said the bills would encourage thoughtless sprawl over dense development in urban centers.

“These bills are creating and widening loopholes that allow new development to evade science-based decision making,” said Guy Alsentzer, executive director of Upper Missouri Waterkeeper. “It’s counterintuitive, it lacks common sense, and it’s going to end in disaster.”

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