ASRWSS, Dry Prairie Funding Will Complete All Construction Of Project
Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water Supply System board chairman Bill Whitehead recently announced that ASRWSS has received its full allocation of funding for FY 2022 construction and that a relatively small allocation of FY 2023 funds will complete all construction of ASRWSS.
The funds will come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Similarly, the FY 2023 allocation for Dry Prairie will provide the necessary funding to complete all construction outside the Fort Peck Reservation.
Whitehead said, â€śThe project addresses a critical need in northeastern Montana and brings reliable, potable, clean water to townspeople, farmers and ranchers and essential providers of other essential community services. The project, authorized by the U.S. Congress, also includes domestic and limited livestock water but excludes water for irrigation purposes.â€ť
ASRWSS general manager Ashleigh Weeks reported that the project includes a centrally located, state-of-the-art water treatment plant that purifies and disinfects water from the Missouri River and delivers it through multiple pumping stations and reservoirs through 3,200 miles of pipeline serving the Fort Peck Indian Reservation and off-reservations areas in the balance of Roosevelt, Sheridan and Daniels counties and the eastern half of Valley County. In 2022, it serves 20,000 people in 18 communities and all farms, ranches and rural residents. The project serves hospitals, schools, community centers, businesses, government facilities and border stations. The water delivered by ASRWSS and subsequently delivered by Dry Prairie meets all federal and state standards for drinking water and replaces uncertain and poor groundwater sources used historically with a safe, adequate and reliable supply.
Weeks said, â€śThis year, we were able to complete the main pipeline that serves all of the distribution system on the west side the reservation, including an elevated tank at Lustre, four pumps stations and three ground storage reservoirs. Phase 1 of the distribution system was also completed and service to all users of phase 1 will be completed later this year. Phase 2 was initiated and phases 3 and 4 will complete construction in 2023 and 2024. All remaining phases are under construction. I encourage everyone on the west side of the project to come to our office this winter and complete the easement consent forms if you havenâ€™t already. This will ensure that we finish the project as quickly as possible.â€ť
Dry Prairie added rural services between Scobey and Plentywood and will begin the final rural services north of Scobey to the Canadian border this year. The pipeline to Opheim will be completed. On the operational side of the project, ASRWSS has five fully certified water treatment plant operators and six fully certified distribution operators. ASRWSS employs 21 people.
She continued, â€śThis past year, the water treatment plant produced a record 1.40 billion gallons in an extremely dry year. This was up from 1.10 billion gallons the year before. There were no shortages or threats of shortages. The staff worked two shifts extending over 18 hours a day, seven days a week to successfully bring water to everyone.â€ť
â€śWe are fortunate to have the Missouri River as our water source,â€ť she said. â€śThere will never be shortages. We see the current struggles on the Colorado River, for example, and are grateful for our situation. Our Missouri River source is adequate during drought and the compact provides the tribes with the first right on the river. When the Corps drops the flow of the river to 4,000 cfs this fall, our intake will perform perfectly.â€ť
According to Whitehead, ASRWSS has recently developed a plan (not fully adopted) that would add distribution systems in Fort Kipp, Brockton and Frazer to the project. There will be upcoming meetings with the communities to assess their interest. The Fort Peck Tribal Executive Board will be asked to provide tribal consent for easements and transfer of facilities owned by the tribes to ASRWSS. This will ensure sufficient funding and staff for annual upkeep of the facilities and prevent their falling into disrepair. The Tribes have authorized American Rescue Plan Act funding to upgrade the pipeline distribution system in each of the communities, Fort Kipp and Frazer.
ASRWSS worked with fire districts this past year to provide water for fighting fires and with ranchers to get water to livestock. â€śFirefighting and water for the rangelands is an important function of the Project,â€ť Weeks said. â€śWe will continue those efforts next year and will implement facilities and policy improvements to battle wildfire and drought.â€ť Additionally, the project was designed to limit the impact of drought on livestock through a number of pasture taps along the line based on careful water use determinations.
Culbertson Volunteer Fire Department members Noah Gregory (left to right) Culbertson High School senior Colin Avance, Austin Oelkers, CHS ag-ed teacher Logan Nickoloff and Mike Olson visited students in grades K-5 for fire prevention week Oct. 14.