Havre Daily News
A study to determine the cost of Havre joining the Rocky Boy's/North Central Regional Water System will be available by next week, but a miscommunication means the city won't immediately get all of the information it's looking for.
The engineer in charge of the study said he is examining what the cost would be if Havre depended on the huge proposed water system for its entire water supply. However, Havre Mayor Bob Rice also wanted to know the costs of Havre using the system to supplement its supply.
The engineer said he would still be willing to investigate the costs of other options the city wants to consider.
The water project will bring water treated at Lake Elwell to about 18,000 residents on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and communities across seven counties. It has been authorized by Congress with a price tag of $229 million.
An HKM engineering study is exploring the costs if Havre were to join the system and use it to meet all of its water needs, engineer Gary Elwell said Tuesday. The Havre City Council voted to spend about $21,000 to have the study done after residents and members of the Havre Area Chamber of Commerce voiced concerns over the city's water supply. Havre opted out of the project, without a vote of the City Council, in 1997 and decided instead to upgrade the city's water treatment plant.
Rice traveled to Great Falls in May and met with Elwell, members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe and representatives from the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority, which is administering the nontribal part of the project. Regional water authority chairman Dan Keil told Rice at the meeting that city officials needed to discuss the different options.
"You need to talk to your staff and see, do we go 25 percent, do we go 50 percent, do we go 100 percent?" Keil said in May. He added that the committee had been unwilling to consider alternatives in the past, but things had changed when the congressional authorization was completed.
Elwell said Tuesday that he was under the impression that the city would follow up after the meeting with different possibilities it wanted HKM to look at.
"(Rice) indicated that the city would provide all of the scenarios we would look at," he said. "(The city) did not provide us with any other options to study."
Rice and Elwell said there has been no communication between the city and the project's organizers about possible options since the meeting in Great Falls. The city did provide information regarding Havre's daily water usage, they said.
Rice said Tuesday he was under the impression that the group understood what options he wanted to be considered, including those that could supply the city with a quarter or a half of its water needs.
"They said they would give me the 25 percent, the 50 percent and the 100 percent," Rice said. "That's what I'm expecting. That's what I want to present to the council. I want those options."
Elwell said he is willing to look at other options in the near future.
"We would look at a limited number of options for no additional cost above the good-intent fee," he said.
The Havre City Council voted to spend about $21,000 on a good-intent fee to have the study performed. Elwell said he is willing to work with the city to determine how the project could economically provide water to the community.
"We're looking for the best-case scenario that would limit the cost to Havre," he said.
Elwell said a decision from the city on whether or not to join the water project will have to be made sometime in the near future. The project is progressing through the design phase, and once the size of the intake at Tiber Dam and the design of the water treatment plant is set, communities will not be able to opt into the project.
Bear Paw Development Corp. deputy director Annmarie Robinson, who is coordinating the project, said Wednesday she will set up a meeting between city officials, tribal representatives, the regional water authority, the engineer and other interested parties once the study is made available.