The Roundup -

By Mandi Nay 

Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority February 2017

 


“It looks bad, it tastes bad, the only good thing about it is that it is wet” -McCone County Resident

When my family and I moved back to Montana in 2012, I never dreamed I would have the opportunity to help carry out something as essential as regional water. The thought hadn’t crossed my mind primarily because I had been off living in heavily-populated areas since leaving Circle. I had quickly grown very accustomed to the great quality water that was found seemingly everywhere. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I had become thoroughly desensitized to the struggles with such an important resource because I didn’t see them every day.

The problem is real, it’s not going away on its own, and Regional Water in Montana is the answer. Good, quality water is critical to a healthy existence and regional water provides that in a fiscally and economically responsible manner. It is 2017, safe water needs to be a way of life!!

About DRWA: For those who may not be familiar with the project, Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority (DRWA) is one of four Regional Water Systems in Montana formed to address the serious water needs in our area. At full build out, an estimated 26,500 people will be serviced in the DRWA project area, which includes the towns of Circle, Richey, Jordan, Glendive, Sidney, and Fairview, the unincorporated towns of Lambert, Savage, Bloomfield, Brockway, Brusett, Cohagen, Lindsey, Sand Springs, and Vida, the water districts of Highland Park, Forrest Park, Spring Grove, and Whispering Trees, and rural users in the counties of McCone, Dawson, Garfield, Richland, and Prairie. Dry-Redwater was formed by local Conservation Districts, is registered as a water and sewer district with the Montana Secretary of State’s office, and is governed by a Board of Directors with representation from throughout the service area. At full build out, DRWA intends to have a single water treatment plant and intake near North Fork Rock Creek on the Fort Peck Reservoir.

The Bureau of Reclamation: Dry-Redwater began working with the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) in 2005. In June 2006, a Feasibility & Environmental Study indicating the DRWA system was financially, environmentally, and operationally feasible was submitted to BOR for review.

Unfortunately, all forward progress came to a halt when the Rural Water Supply Act was signed into Law on December 22, 2006 authorizing the establishment of a specific rural water program within the Bureau of Reclamation. At that time, DRWA was told BOR would need to take a break from review of the DRWA project and develop new program criteria before any work could continue.

The Rural Water Supply Act ultimately sunset in 2016, there was essentially nothing to show for all of the effort DRWA put in. In a meeting with BOR in November 2016 and DRWA was informed that BOR isn’t really certain what next steps are for regional water following the sunset of the Rural Water Supply Act. Dry-Redwater is presently awaiting further instruction from the Bureau of Reclamation regarding how we should proceed with our application for federal authorization through BOR.

They Want to Hear from You:

Federal authorization can be achieved through passing of Legislation. During the last political cycle, DRWA was shown support from Congressional Delegation with the introduction of Bills in the U.S. House & Senate providing for federal authorization to Dry-Redwater and another Montana Rural Water Project, the Musselshell-Judith/Central Montana Regional Water Authority. The Senate Bill passed Committee and was awaiting a vote on the Senate floor when administration changed. The good news is that DRWA has received confirmation from Montana’s Congressional Delegates of their intention to introduce new Legislation in the first quarter of 2017.

Let our Congressional Delegates know Regional Water in Montana needs to be a priority. Ask them to assist us by introducing our Legislation sooner rather than later.

Senator Steve Daines: https://www.daines.senate.gov/connect/email-steve Senator Jon Tester: https://www.tester.senate.gov/?p=email_senator

Congressman Ryan Zinke: https://zinke.house.gov/contact -Note that Congressman Zinke is in transition to be Secretary of the Interior so it would be best if he were not your first or only Congressional contact.

First Users are Connected: Quality water for those in need is the goal. While continuing to work through the obstacles at the federal level, Dry-Redwater was able to find a way to begin providing water in the interim. DRWA partnered with Richland County and the City of Sidney in 2013 and contracted to use Sidney’s water as an interim source for DRWA users in that area. As a result, the DRWA Sidney South line went live in September 2014, and DRWA is excited to announce the East Yellowstone extension to the Sidney South line will be online in 2017. While the user base is still small, it’s a start and shows Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority has begun to gain momentum.

Don’t Get Discouraged: We are always looking at additional options for providing water as we continue working toward federal authorization. A number of alternatives have been identified and we are moving on planning engineering to identify which bring the most benefit to the service area. Preliminary engineering has begun on multiple potential areas. Near Circle, DRWA is working on the ability to provide water service along Highway 13, North Road, Horse Creek Road, Highway 200, and residential services near the edge of town. In the Sidney area, Dry-Redwater has goals to expand service to the homeowners near the Sidney Circle Subdivision and other subdivisions. Other possibilities being looked into include: ways to provide water to the Town of Lambert to help alleviate wastewater issues and options for utilizing additional available water treatment plants in the area as interim sources.

It is extremely important for DRWA to have accurate data regarding those who are interested in being connected so our efforts are maximized. If you would like to be served, please ensure you have provided us with your information. We are only a phone call or email away if you would like to double check: 406-485-DRWA, drwa@midrivers.com

We Need Your Help: Regional water programs have received a great deal of support from Montana over the years. In fact, the State of Montana has a Regional Water System Special Revenue Account which was set up to assist with rural water programs at the state level. Regrettably, Governor Bullock’s new budget (FY 18/19) proposes a transfer of all available regional water program construction funding out of that Special Revenue Account and into the General Fund, in an attempt to meet its surplus goals. Regional Water Systems in Montana do not have access to funding once it has been placed in the General Fund and the proposed shift could be very detrimental to DRWA’s ability to construct new extensions. Please contact your local Legislators and ask them to help ensure the funding designed to help provide water for Montana is not allowed to be swept into the General Fund.

Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority had a chance to travel to Helena at the end of January to discuss the importance of Montana Regional Water Systems. We were part of a Legislative Meet & Greet where 49 Legislators attended to discuss important issues from around the state. In addition, we had the opportunity to testify in front of the Long-Range Planning Committee about funding specific to DRWA and other like projects. All conversations went very well and DRWA appears to have support at the state level, but Legislators still need to hear from you.

Legislators within DRWA Service Area:

Representative Scott Staffanson (House District 35): 406-480-0467, Sidney, MT

Representative Alan Doane (House District 36): 406-583-7546 or 406-939-4253, Bloomfield, MT

Representative Bill Harris (House District 37): 406-429-2091 or 406-366-6775, Winnett, MT

Senator Steve Hinebaugh (Senate District 18): 406-365-7967 or 406-989-1372, Wibaux, MT

Senator Eric Moore (Senate District 19): 406-234-3562, Miles City, MT

It is imperative that we keep water quality issues front and center so those who don’t see it every day know the battle is on-going. People in our service area have sludge, rather than clean water, coming out of their wells that supply “water” to their taps and showers, and to livestock. Dry-Redwater Regional Water Authority (DRWA) passionately believes every Montanan should have access to good water, not the degrading quality currently available.

 

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