Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hill County Water District, which supplies water to Hill County from Kremlin west and into parts of Liberty County, plans to issue a $758,000 bond to pay for improvements to its pumphouse on the Marias River and will hold a public hearing next Wednesday in Hingham to collect comment on the matter. Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development Corp. said Tuesday that the plans are in response to an order from the federal Environmental Protection Agency requiring the district to improve the quality of the water it provides. “It is being mandated,” she said. “The district feels this is the best solution they can go with at this time.” The bond can be issued without raising rates on the water users of the Hill County Water District, she added. Robinson said the district doesn’t meet federal treatment requirements for what is defined as surface water, which is what the Hill County Water District pumps from Fresno Reservoir to supply its water users in Hill County. The district chlorinates the water before it is transmitted to its users in Kremlin and west. The federal requirements are more extensive than the district’s procedure, but that had been mitigated by the district’s plan to join the Rocky Boy’s/ North Central Montana Regional Water System now authorized by Congress and under construction. Because it is taking so long to construct that system, Robinson said, the EPA issued an order this year requiring the water district improve its water quality levels. The Hill County Water District has decided that the best way to meet federal requirements while waiting for the regional water system to be completed is to use water from the Marias, but that requires a substantial update on the district’s machinery on the river, she said. The regional water system, part of the water compact Montana and the federal government negotiated with the Chippewa Cree Tribe on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, will treat water from Tiber Reservoir and supply it to the reservation and some 15 communities and rural water users in north-central Montana. It will initially serve an estimated 26,000 people. Robinson said the project hopes to receive around $6 million in funding from Congress this year once the House and Senate reconcile differences in their bills providing appropriations. The tribe and the North Central Regional Water Author i ty had requested $32 million, she said. “There’s limited money and lots of needs, and those needs are evergrowing,” she added. Constructing a plant to treat the water from Fresno would cost about $2 million, with additional annual operation and maintenance costs, Robinson said. The cost to upgrade the pumphouse on the Marias is estimated at $1.77 million, the district’s resolution to issue a bond said, with $955,660 of that coming from a State Tribal Assistance Grant and $58,000 from the Hill County Water District. The bond would be issued at an estimated amount of $758,000, to pay for a loan from the state drinking water revolving loan fund. Robinson said the State Tribal Assistance Grant funding is being provided by the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority. The water district already has pipes and a pumphouse on the Ma r i a s Ri ve r a s a supplemental source of water, Robinson said. The work planned will upgrade the system to allow it to become the sole source for the district. T h e wa t e r d i s t r i c t ’ s resolution said the work on the p ump h o u s e wi l l i n c l u d e installing new pumps, a backup generator and an ultraviolet disinfection system. “They have been using a diesel generator to run the pumps,” Robinson said, adding that that system is not very reliable. “They are changing to electric motors plus a backup generator; upgrading the pumps; doing what needs to be done so it can be their sole source.” Robinson said the water from the Marias is obtained through an infiltration gallery, a set of pipes in the gravel beneath the river, which reduces the amount of treatment needed under the Clean Water Act of 1986. The water from Fresno Reservoir is pumped directly from the reservoir, she said. The district is allowed under Montana state law to issue the bond without the district voting on it, but are required to hold a public hearing on the proposal, she said. That meeting is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. next Wednesday at the water district’s office at 104 Second St. in Hingham.