Montana Water Project Finally Underway

After ten years of planning, officials are finally set to construct the Fort Peck Dry Prairie Regional Water System, expected to bring water to more than 28,000 residents of northeastern Montana.

Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in Culbertson, Mont., yesterday, and the first phase of the $198 million project is to begin in September.

"This is monumental in Montana in that it is the first step toward a new, brighter future for most of the folks in this part of the state," Rick Duncan, the regional water project coordinator with the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, told The Associated Press. "It’s also a big step, and we’re excited for what the future holds."

The project's first phase will be a $3.77 million, 25-mile stretch of pipeline that will bring water to about 750 residents in the Medicine Lake and Froid areas, said Clint Jacobs, coordinator for the Dry Prairie Rural Water System.

Water from the Missouri River will be delivered from Culbertson’s treatment plant to the two northeastern Montana towns, which will hook into the main water system in five or six years, Jacobs said, adding that the Culbertson plant is only temporary until other portions of the system are online.

By 2011, 3,200-miles of pipeline will provide drinking water to residents in Sheridan, Daniels and Roosevelt counties, part of Valley County and on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Phase one of construction will include the 14-inch pipeline from Culbertson to Medicine Lake, a $450,000 pump station about a quarter-mile north of Culbertson, and a temporary $13,000 small storage tank about 3.5 miles north of Culbertson, Jacobs said.

Residents from Froid and Medicine Lake both should be hooked up to the system by the end of next summer. Both will see a slight increase in their water rates to help pay for the project, officials said.

"What we’re planning is a system with one good source of high-quality and treated drinking water," Jacobs said.

For now, the quality of the existing groundwater water is questionable for residents in Medicine Lake and Froid, Jacobs said.

"The water is treated and disinfected, but many of the people of those communities purchase their drinking water utilizing bottled water," Jacobs said.

Pressure to upgrade the system has evolved over the years as drinking water standards have tightened, he said.

When the entire project is complete, it will take 13 million gallons of water from the Missouri River each day through the new intake system between Wolf Point and Poplar, treated at a state-of-the-art treatment facility and sent to communities and rural users.

The Associated Press

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