Fresh water on the way
April 14, 2009
Tim Leeds Havre Daily News [email protected]
After hitting a stumbling block in U. S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements, a plan to connect rural water users in northeastern Hill County to the Havre water treatment plant is moving forward, according to the regional water system authority coordinator for the Rocky Boy's-North Central Regional Water System. Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development Corp., the authority's coordinator, said the original plans to run pipes from the water treatment plant under the levy north of Havre ran into snags with new rules implemented after Hurricane Katrina hit the United States in 2005. “The levy, and crossing under the levy, ended up being much more complicated than anticipated,” Robinson said. The plan to connect the members of the North Havre County Water District to the Havre water treatment plant was a stop-gap measure from the start, planned to provide treated water to the district until the completion of the regional water system. The water district, which includes some 42 hookups in northeastern Hill County, is under a continuing boil order from the state Department of Environmental Quality. Dave Thompson, secretary for the water district, said the boil order has been in effect since late last year due to high turbidity in the water, taken from Fresno Reservoir. The boil order is in effect until further notice, and the hookup to the Havre water treatment plant should solve that problem, he said. The high level of turbidity, or cloudiness, increases the chance of diseasecausing organisms growing in the water, although the cloudiness in itself is not harmful, a release from the water district said. The Rocky Boy's-North Central Montana Regional Water System will treat water from Tiber Reservoir south of Chester and transport it to residences on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation and to people living off the reservation in Chouteau, Glacier, Hill, Liberty, Pondera, Teton and Toole counties. The authority members include Big Sandy, Box Elder, Havre, the North Havre rural water district and the Hill County Water District. The water system, when completed, Will provide water to nearly 30,000 people in north-central Montana. For the last several years the Chippewa Cree Tribe and the regional water authority have requested $32 million each year to proceed with work at the reservoir and to construct the water treatment plant there. Former President George W. Bush included no funding for the project in his budgets, although Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and Rep. Denny Rehberg have successfully put some money back in. For fiscal year 2008, the congressional delegation successfully appropriated $5.9 million for the project and for fiscal year 2009 appropriated $7 million. With the lesser-than-askedfor funding, the water system has been trying to do stop-gap measures to provide higherquality water to areas under order from the government to improve water quality, such as the North Havre district. Once the Tiber water treatment plant is online, the distribution systems built will be used to transport the water treated in the new system. Robinson said the water authority dedicated $2 million of its share of the fiscal year 2008 money for the North Havre County Water District project. Under that project, the authority will purchase treated water from Havre, then sell it to the rural water district, which will then sell it to its users. Robinson said the cost of the water will be $125 a month, plus $5 per thousand gallons of water used. Rocky Boy planned to use its share of the funding to hook residences on the reservation to a reverse-osmosis water treatment plant located near Northern Winz Casino. The original plan for North Havre was to run a pipe under the levy then 22 miles north to the water district's treatment plant. The problems with meeting the requirements of the Corps of Engineers has led to a change in that plan, Robinson said. Now the plan is to run the distribution system west from the water treatment plant until it can pass behind the levy, crossing the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway railroad tracks and then the Milk River and then head north to the water district, Robinson said. The authority is continuing to work on getting easements from property owners so it can run the pipes north, she said. Robinson said she is hopeful to start asking for bids on the project in May. She said the North Havre County Water District and the North Central Montana Regional Water Authority are considering allowing people to join the system. The people joining would have to pay for their own connections, as there is no funding for making new connections, and would be charged at the same rate as the other water district members, she said. The authority is continuing to look at possible projects on which to use the fiscal year 2009 funding, she said. The authority's highest priorities have been finding systems with excess water treatment capability, able to treat more water than is needed by their users, and connect them with parts of the regional system under order by the government to improve their water quality. North Havre district and five other members of the North Central regional authority the Ches t e r water di s t r i c t , Riverview Colony, Devon Water Inc., the town of Kevin and the Brady County Water District are all under administrative order to improve their water supply.