Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rocky Boy’s/North Central Montana Regional Water System is moving forward to try to hook some people on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and in northern Hill County up to a better water supply, although at a rate slowed to a snail’s pace by lack of funding. Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development Corp. said the system, which will eventually provide treated water from Tiber Reservoir to some 29,000 on Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation and to communities in north-central Montana outside of the reservation, had hoped for $20 million to $30 million in appropriations from Congress. What it received was $5.904 million. “If the full amount came in we would be doing something totally different,” Robinson said. “As these small chunks come in we’re still trying to decide how to best solve the problem.” The water treatment plant at Tiber will cost about $60 million to build, Robinson said. Until a larger appropriation comes in work on that is at a standstill. The Tribal portion of the system, which is receiving 62 percent of the appropriation about $3.15 million plans to connect about 100 residences near Box Elder to a reverse-osmosis treatment plant near Northern Winz Casino, probably by midsummer if not sooner. That treatment plant was created as a stop-gap measure to provide water until the main system goes online, Robinson said. For the North Havre Water District, the Havre City Council Monday approved moving forward with a proposal for the Regional Water Authority to run pipes to the users in the district about 42 hookups including some 30 households and purchasing water treated at the Havre water treatment plant from the City of Havre to then sell to the district, which would then sell it to its customers, she said. The authority will use its share of the $5.904 million about $2.24 million to construct the lines connecting the North Havre Water District to the water treatment plant. That will prevent the district from having to spend about $300,000 to upgrade its treatment plant, Robinson added. The Havre plant has the capacity to provide water to both systems, she said, linking one part of the regional system that has excess capacity to another part that has problems with its water supply and water quality. “It’s a win-win. It generates revenue for the City of Havre and and it’s a win for North Havre,” she said. “It alleviates them from having to make a huge investment in their water treatment plant. “It also helps (the regional water system) get jumpstarted,” Robinson added. Robinson said the North Havre Water District was one of five in the region the regional water system will serve that is under compliance orders from the Department of Environmental Quality. The other districts are the South Chester district, the Riverview Colony, the Brady County Water and Sewer District and Devon Water Inc. The authority is putting the highest priority on getting water to those districts, which have problems with the supply and quality of their water, until the full regional system is operational, she said. The water authority is now working on writing a purchase agreement it will submit to the City of Havre and to document that even if part of the treatment plant went offline, it could still treat enough water for both the city and the rural district, Robinson said. “We’re very confident we can meet the criteria, we just have to prove that,” she added. She said the use would in no way impact Havre’s contract with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to use water from the Milk River, as the water district has its own contract for water usage. The only difference would be where the water is taken from the river and how it is treated. Robinson said that as long as Congress continues to only provide small appropriations, the authority will continue to work on bite-sized portions that fit into the overall plan. Once the main system is operational, the Rocky Boy and North Havre Water District lines will be incorporated into it, she said. “We don’t want to put in lines we won’t use in the regional system,” she added. While Montana’s congressional delegation is aware of the difficulties in funding the project, it is still an uphill battle, Robinson said. The president’s fiscal year 2008 budget includes nothing for Montana regional water systems, she said, and any funding will have to be added into bills by Montana’s senators and representative. “So we become an ugly earmark,” Robinson said.