Larry Kline Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
Construction on the Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water System will begin this fall, and project organizers are working to secure funding to keep the project moving quickly. The bidding period for work on the raw water intake substructure at Lake Elwell will open Thursday, project coordinator Annmarie Robinson said today. An official groundbreaking ceremony will be held Aug. 31, and Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Montana’s congressional delegation and other state and federal officials have been invited. In the initial phase of construction, workers will tunnel into the reservoir from beneath the earth, creating a pipeline that will eventually draw water into a large water treatment plant. Work on the intake’s superstructure, the above-ground pump house, will likely begin in the spring, Robinson said. The U.S. House has allotted $5.5 million for the project next year and a U.S. Senate committee has approved $6 million. The difference in the amounts will be hashed out in a conference committee, Robinson said. The water authority and the Chippewa Cree Tribe had requested more than $32 million. Robinson said the groups are looking at ways to secure interim financing to move construction forward more quickly. Those efforts could include state loan funds or private loans, she said. “We’re looking at all options,” she said. The regional water authority is still awaiting word from the small community of Kevin.
Robinson said officials there have not officially informed the authority whether the town will be participating in the system. Galata County Water District voted against joining the system. Robinson said 15 communities have joined the system, which will bring water to as many as 26,000 residents on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and in towns and water districts across north-central Montana. The project was approved by Congress in 2002 and isExpected to cost more than $267 million. Officials have said the project will likely be completed in the next 10 to 15 years. Havre was among the communities that joined the system. The Havre City Council voted June 20 to join, guaranteeing a supplemental supply of drinking water for future generations. The city will be required to purchase at least 35 percent of its water from the system when it’s constructed, but will have the option of receiving as much as 7.7 million gallons per day. The option allows the city to continue to use its water supply from Milk River and its water treatment plant indefinitely. Havre users will pay a base rate between $12 and $14.50 and pay $1.16 per 1,000 gallons. Users now pay $10.04 each month plus $2.15 per 1,000 gallons, and those costs may rise in coming months. City users will pay more than $1 million a year for the project once it is constructed, according to documents provided to the city Public Works Department by the water authority. Some city officials are calling for a $10 to $15 increase in the base rate and a possible increase in the volume fee this year. The money, they say, is needed for repairs to the city’s water system.