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Hill County’s dilemma: How to fund dam work

 

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The Hill County Commission is working to find out whether it can use a grant already awarded to pay for work on a dam south of Havre after two different government agencies have set different lists of work. The commissioners at a meeting Thursday directed Annmarie Robinson of Bear Paw Development Corp. to talk to representat ives of the state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and set a conference to discuss whether the county can use part of a $100,000 grant from DNRC to pay its share of work being planned by the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service on Beaver Creek Dam eight miles south of Havre. DNRC awarded the county the grant to build up the berm, or mound of earth, on the north side of the dam due to concerns about seepage on the outside of the structure. Since then, NRCS has expanded the scope of the project and will do the work itself, with a $28,000 required match from the county. While the cost to the county is less, Robinson said she is unsure if the money already provided can be used, because it specifically was awarded to build up the berm. "If we can't use the grant (for this project,) I don't want to lose that $100,000," she said. I n a n i n t e r v i ew Fr i d a y, Commissioner Mike Anderson said the problem goes back almost to the time the dam was built in the 1970s. Seepage has been detected, but the cause of the seepage never has been determined. Anderson said it could just as likely be from springs as from seepage from the reservoir. Because the water was causing Pressure on the berm, the DNRC originally said the berm should be substantially built up. However, test wells drilled since then have shown that the pressure is not as serious as was originally determined, he said. In the meantime, NRCS has added different items to the project, including work on the drain systems for the test wells. Anderson said a DNRC representative to whom he spoke Friday said it would recommend to the NRCS that building up the berm still be part of the project. Robinson said Thursday that she has been told that NRCS plans to begin work early this summer. The question is whether DNRC will allow the grant to go for work other than building up the berm, since that was what the application said its purpose would be. Bessette said she hopes that if the county can show DNRC that the work will solve the problem for which the grant was awarded, the state agency will allow the grant to be used. The amount required by NRCS is substantially less than what the original plan would have cost the county, she added, but could be a problem if the county has to find different funds than the grant. "If we can fix the problem for $28,000, we better be talking pretty fast to be able to spend part of that grant," she said.

 
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