By Alan Sorensen
A $200 million proposal for a north central Montana regional water system is ready to go to Congress, according to coordinating committee members.
But first, the six-member committee and five alternates will hold public meetings in Conrad and Hingham. The Conrad forum will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 in Norley Hall. The Hi-Line meeting at Hingham will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 7 in the Hingham Community Center multi-purpose room.
The federal legislation drafted by the coordinating committee is for a water treatment plant at Lake Elwell (Tiber Dam) and a pipeline network to feed clean drinking water to Rocky Boys Indian Reservation and several nearby communities.
A news release issued by the committee said the congressional legislation would seek approximately $160 million in federal dollars and another $40 million in state and local monies to fund the project.
In addition to the legislative proposal, the committee has drafted the proposed bylaws of the Regional Water Authority. The Authority would be the agency operating the regional system.
The open meetings for public comment are being held before the committee proceeds to the next step.
All participating communities and interested people are invited to attend either or both of the town meetings.
Representatives from the coordinating committee, state coordination committee, and the Chippewa Cree Tribe will be in attendance to update everyone on the status of the project and to answer questions.
The idea of the regional water system arose from Rocky Boys reserved water rights compact negotiations with state and federal agencies. About 30 communities and water districts have been involved with the project at one time or another.
The Tribe has been waiting more than a year for Congressional approval of its water compact agreement. That agreement already received full support of the Legislature and Gov. Racicot. A bill for its adoption was sponsored by both of Montanas senators and her lone representative.
Committee members are Dan Keil, Tiber County Water District; Jim Coffman, Town of Chester; Dave Jones, Hill County Water District; and Chippewa Cree Tribe representatives Bruce Sunchild, Kelly Eagleman, and Lydia Sutherland. Alternates from Rocky Boy are Jim Morsette, Russell Standing Rock, and Alvin Windy Boy. The other alternates are Ray Wadsworth of Montana Rural Water Systems, Inc. and Chip Miller of the City of Shelby.
For additional information, please contact Annmarie Robinson, project coordinator at Bear Paw Development Corp. The telephone number is 1-888-528-BEAR.