By Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Tonight the Havre City Council will take another step in considering whether to join the Rocky Boy/North Central Water Project, a federally funded initiative to bring water to the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and other communities via a pipeline from Lake Elwell.
A delegation representing the project recently traveled to Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress for funding.
Annmarie Robinson, an employee of Bear Paw Development Corp. who is coordinating the water project, will give the City Council answers to several written questions it had submitted regarding the project.
The questions include the cost to Havre taxpayers, how the project would affect the city's water distribution system, and who has authority over the design and operation of the proposed treatment plant, Robinson said.
Robinson, along with members of the Rocky Boy tribal council and other representatives from the area, traveled to the nation's capitol on Tuesday to lobby Sens. Max Baucus and Conrad Burns and Rep. Denny Rehberg for an intitial $15 million appropriation to begin construction.
The money would allow work to begin on the intake at Tiber Dam, tribal council member Brian "Kelly" Eagleman said. He also said he hoped the money would be available by fiscal year 2006. He encouraged citizens in the member communities to get involved in the effort.
"Since this is a big project and a number of communities are involved, I would like to encourage all the communities to call or write our congressional delegation to support this thing," Eagleman said. "We've all got a stake in it."
The $200 million-plus project, when completed, will bring water treated at Tiber Dam to about 20,000 people on the reservation and in member communities.
Havre city officials opted out of the project in 1997, without a City Council vote, and instead decided to take out an $8 million loan to upgrade its water treatment plant, which treats water from the Milk River.
The Havre Area Chamber of Commerce asked City Council early last year to again look into the possibility of joining the regional system, citing concerns that the Milk River may not supply enough water for the city's future.
The City Council considered the issue in October but decided not to pursue it, though no vote was taken. In November, the issue was brought up again, and City Council members decided to hear from experts before deciding whether or not to join the system.
Some City Council members said today they're still undecided about whether Havre should join the project but added that water resources are an important concern for Havre's future.
"I'd have to see Annmarie's comments" before making a decision, City Council member Terry Schend said. "I do believe it's essential that we look at all of the options. To remain a viable community we need to ensure that we have all of the amenities, water being one of them."
"I don't think there's a yes or a no at this point," City Council member Jack Brandon said. "I think (water) is a priority. It should be a priority. It's really essential. I don't think the city should close any of our options."