Amanda Johnson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The North Central Montana Regional Water Authority is planning to enter into a 30-year agreement with the City of Havre and, although this agreement won’t affect residents of Havre, it will affect some North Havre Water District residents bringing them much-needed drinking water. The North Central Montana Regional Water Authority will be working in conjunction with the City of Havre to treat the water that will be supplied to the North Havre Water District. “The main thing is that this new agreement won’t affect people in town,” Dave Peterson, director of Public Works said. “All they’re (North Havre Water District) doing is using their water that is allocated to them.” The North Central Montana Regional Water Authority has slowly been receiving funding through federal appropriations to build a regional water system. Because the federal appropriAtions have been too small to do major work on the system, as money comes in the Authority has been working to supply water to districts that are under DEQ orders to improve their water quality. “A lot of our systems are in trouble with DEQ. North Havre Water District has an administrative order on them, meaning, DEQ has determined that the water they’re producing does not meet state standards and is a health risk," Annmarie Robinson, regional water coordinator, said. The North Havre Water District, which has about 42 connections supplying rural residents in Northern Hill County, is one of those districts under orders to improve its water quality. Five other systems in the region are also under administrative orders. In order to help the district, Robinson said, the Authority will help construct a line to transmit treated water from the Havre water treatment plant to the North Havre Water District. Both Havre and the North Havre Water District are part of the Authority and will be in the system when it’s completed. The North Havre Water District, a rural district with no relation to the Community of North Havre across the railroad tracks from Havre proper, takes its water from Fresno Reservoir and pumps the water to its treatment facility. The North Havre Water District is going to abandon their intake at Fresno and move their point of diversion from Fresno to the Milk River where it comes into the city water treatment plant, Peterson said. "What (the Authority was) originally trying to do is get water out to the Rocky Boy reservation, and a bunch of these outlying communities like Big Sandy, Chester, Shelby and different places like that,” Peterson said. “This is one of the first phases of the project. What they have money for is to get water to North Havre because they are meeting the requirements set forth by the state for drinking water." The ultimate goal is to have a water treatment plant at Lake Elwell south of Chester to provide treated water to some 30,000 people including residents of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and other residents of north-central Montana. “This project actually started from the Chippewa Cree, Rocky Boy’s, water compact,” Robinson said. “When the whole project is done there will be a water treatment plant, as it has been envisioned, right out at Lake Elwell and there will be a main line from Lake Elwell to the Rocky Boy reservation, that’s what we call our core, and there will be branches going to all of the other communities,” Robinson said. “All we’re doing (now) is constructing lines ahead of the big system being built. The city of Havre will actually produce the water and the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority will then pump it up to the North Havre Water District, who will then buy the water from us and sell it to their customers. A group of farmers formed the North Havre Water District while the U.S. Air Force radar base north of Havre was still in existence. “The farmers and ranchers got together and created a district and put the lines in place for the water to run to their houses," Robinson said. "So these guys already put in that infrastructure. They paid for that." City Council members who discussed the issue at a meeting last week had questions about how the water district would handle those people who wanted water but were outside of the water district. “The Authority’s stand has always been that we’re a wholesale water provider, so we’re selling it to the district. The district could expand its boundaries and include more people. In fact it’s their water,” Robinson said. "We’re not going to pick up farmers and ranchers, but if a group of them got together and were willing to put the infrastructure in place and wanted to buy water from us, we would love to talk to them.” The North Central Montana Regional Water Authority plans to have their full project completed within the next 10 years if the required funding comes through. If funding is delayed, it could be as long as 20-25 years, possibly more, before the project will be completed. “We wanted a long enough goal in case something happens, like a recession. Our initial goal was 10 years, our funding is dragging out such that it could be 20-25 years or more but our hope is if the economic stimulus comes through that the president-elect is talking about we could get a large chunk of money the project could go faster. If it continues with the amount of money that we’re getting now, it could take a long, long time,” Robinson said. Mayor Bob Rice said the city hopes the City Council members will be able to review the draft agreement by the next Council meeting. Then they could approve the agreement and move forward with it. The next City Council meeting will be held Dec.1 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.