By Cole Grant/UM Legislative News Service

HELENA - The Colstrip Power Plant and water rights are shaping up to be big natural resource

Montana Environmental Information Center
Montana Environmental Information Center

issues for the 2017 legislative session.

Republican Sen. Chas Vincent of Libby is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. It meets for the first time on Wednesday.

“It’s good for everybody to understand each other and what they bring to the table as far as experience, and knowledge, and passion,” Vincent said Tuesday.

Both he and Democratic Rep. Zach Brown of Bozeman -- who is the ranking member on the House committee -- say the impending, partial closure of the Colstrip Power Plant will be a priority.

“We have a robust discussion ahead of us about how to really take care of that community, help them pivot towards the future,” Brown said.

They also agree that water rights will be a much-debated topic in the 2017 session. Vincent is carrying Senate Bill 28, which would expand jurisdiction of the water court, and clarify the duties of chief and associate water judges.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.