Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) isn't the only one having second thoughts on a multi-million dollar construction project on the Montana-Canada border. Here's what the Helena Independent Record's editorial board staff had to say over the weekend:
A year ago in this space, the newspaper’s editorial board backed the use of millions in federal stimulus money for upgrades at five Montana border stations, including Whitetail. Given the recent developments, we have changed our mind.
Closing the Whitetail station and channeling the money that would have been spent there to other border security projects, especially those that will actually improve security, rather than just provide updated plumbing, wiring and paint, makes much more sense.
POSTED Friday, August 6th
This just in:
Senator Jon Tester's (D-MT) office says Homeland Security has decided to halt construction at the Port of Whitetail, Montana. This after mounting criticism of the project, especially following the news that Canada plans to close their Port of Entry across the border from Whitetail.
Tester, in a prepared statement, says he spoke with Customs Commissioner Alan Bersin about the closure.
“Commissioner Bersin and I had a good talk,” Tester said. “We discussed the need to take a timeout to get public input given Canada’s decision. This allows us to figure out what’s next in a way that’s right for trade in northeast Montana and for our security needs, in a way that’s careful about spending taxpayer dollars. I’m looking forward to continuing to work with folks in Phillips County, Commissioner Bersin and the Canadian government to make sure this gets done right.”
Phillips County? That is straight from their press release. The Port of Whitetail is in Daniels County. I'm assuming it's a typo. Then again, last time the Senator met with constituents in Daniels County, it was an invite-only meeting, and the Senator's staff requested the presence of law enforcement. Maybe the meetings will be planned in Phillips County.
Congressman Denny Rehberg's (R-MT) office, meanwhile, sent out this statement Friday:
"I didn't vote for the "so-called" stimulus, and this project should have never gotten off the ground in the first place. There were no public meetings, and there has been no oversight. This Administration and this Congress have racked up record deficits in a record amount of time. It's almost as if they have blinders on when it comes to spending other people's money. I asked for the review earlier this week, I welcome it, and I'm going to continue to scrutinize every aspect of this project because taxpayers deserve nothing less."
Here is audio of Congressman Rehberg released Monday afternoon, pledging to fight wasteful spending at Whitetail.
Click to Listen
Click to Listen
Fresh off of townhall meetings in Northeastern Montana, and news that Canada is closing its port on the opposite side of the border, Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) slammed the Whitetail border port construction project as "wasteful stimulus spending."
Rehberg hosted townhall meeting "listening sessions" in Daniels and Sheridan Counties. In a prepared statement released Monday, Rehberg had this to say:
"You might expect the folks actually living near the Whitetail Port to be the port modernization’s biggest cheerleaders, but after personally talking with many of them, that's just not the case. As taxpayers, they're on the hook to pay for these wasteful projects, and they're not happy about it.
As for how Canada's decision to close the Big Beaver Port of Entry will impact operations on the border at Whitetail, Rehberg added this:
With the news that the Canadian government was closing its side of the border, the Whitetail Port will now only allow cars to enter the United States from Canada. U.S. travelers will be unable to enter Canada at that crossing. However, the Scobey Port of Entry remains open, just 12 miles away.
Here is a statement released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection HQS:
CBP is currently in the process of modernizing the Whitetail port of entry to address critical post-9/11 infrastructure needs and we do not have any plans to close the Whitetail port of entry at this time. We are working closely with the Canada Border Services Agency to ensure that any actions taken meet the continued security interests of both countries.
Just got a note from Emilie Boyles at KXGN in Glendive, telling me about this story breaking on Montana's Northern border.
The Leader confirmed that the Canadian government is planning to close the Big Beaver, Saskatchewan Port of Entry. Big Beaver is the counterpart to Whitetail, Montana's port of Entry.
According to Burl Bowler with The Daniels County Leader:
This creates quite a pickle for the U.S. On the American side of the border, within a few hundred feet of Big Beaver POE, the port of Whitetail is getting a controversial, extensive, several million dollar make-over. Contracts were awarded this spring for the new American facility. Work is underway and it appears the American officials are, or were oblivious to the new development until our contact. Or, maybe, they just are not commenting.
We suspect comments from the US side of border will be forthcoming, now that the closure has been confirmed.
Public Service Commission candidate, and blogger at the Electric City Weblog, Travis Kavulla wrote this piece for National Review a while back. You may also recall the Whitetail border post controversy from last summer, as CNN crews highlighted the remote location and the proposed multi-million dollar new facility. Here's that piece: