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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) today announced that the Senate VA-HUD Appropriations bill for FY 2005 includes $1.5 million to continue a study of the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer. The money comes in addition to $500,000 Murray helped secure last week in the Senate Interior Appropriations bill.

"This is an outstanding, improved federal commitment toward this important study. From this study, we will receive the information we need to protect our water quality and plan future economic growth," Senator Murray said. "It's in our region's best interests to move this study forward as quickly as possible."

Energy companies in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene region have wanted to build three power plants in Idaho over the water source for the Spokane Rathdrum Aquifer. The plants would require 20 million gallons of water a day from the Aquifer, which is the sole source of drinking water for the region. Community leaders in the region requested a study to determine how these power plants would affect the Aquifer.

"I am delighted that the people of Washington state and Idaho have come together on this issue," Murray continued. "This cooperation is a shining example of what our region can accomplish when we work together."

Murray worked closely with community leaders and Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to secure this new funding. As was the case with the $500,000 Murray secured in the FY 2004 Interior Appropriations bill, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) will use the money in conjunction with the Washington Department of Ecology and the Idaho Department Environmental Quality.

The bill passed the Senate Appropriations Committee today, and now joins the Interior Appropriations bill in awaiting action by the full Senate.