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BILLINGS, Mont. -- Federal lawmakers are seeking to lift restrictions on hydropower development so more local irrigation districts could use water flowing through agricultural canals and pipelines to generate electricity.

Proponents say hundreds of irrigation systems, the bulk of them in the Great Plains and Rocky Mountains, would be able to pursue small power projects under proposals from Montana Rep. Steve Daines, Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso.

Laws dating to 1939 block or restrict hydropower projects on many government-built irrigation systems.

Irrigation district managers say money from such projects could help cover the costs of repairs to aging water supply networks and make them more efficient in the face of recurring drought.

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