Written by Devon Boen
Members of the Wolf Point City Council met Wednesday, Oct. 17, with representatives from the Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water System Project. Representatives from ASRWSS had attended a previous city council meeting and proposed providing water to the City of Wolf Point through its pipeline rather than Wolf Point’s current source.
The ASRWSS website notes the Assiniboine and Sioux Rural Water System is funded by a federal grant and $39.8 million was provided for the project in 2009. A portion of the money went to installing two miles of a raw water pipeline and the rest went to completing the state-of-the-art water treatment plant east of Wolf Point that was recently opened.
ASRWSS is part of a larger water project which includes the Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority. Together, the two make up the Fort Peck Reservation Rural Water System which is a $200 million project.
The goals of both organizations are to provide higher quality water to the surrounding areas for rural, municipal or industrial needs.
When it was first presented to the Wolf Point City Council, a decision was made to refer it to the water committee so further research could be conducted on whether it was a positive change for the city.
At the meeting, a presentation was given outlining all the potential benefits of Wolf Point receiving its water from the ASRWSS pipeline.
ASRWSS representatives said they had more than enough water to provide for the entire city. The water system was built to accommodate for growth so it currently provides less than it actually could.
Wolf Point City Councilman Chris Dschaak asked what ASRWSS planned to do if it ever met its capacity. A representative stated no concrete plans were in place for expansion since Congress laid out very strict plans for a definitive design population, but every facet of the system was constructed to accommodate expansion if it was necessary.
A chart presented by engineer Mike Watson said Wolf Point by itself would likely receive a little over a million gallons of water a day and over two million gallons a day during the summer months.
The water pipeline could realistically distribute 14.5 million gallons a day, but Watson said a design population of that size likely wouldn’t be achieved until about 2025.
Some proposed benefits of switching over to the ASWRSS pipeline were the potential to cut costs and have cleaner water overall.
Wolf Point currently receives its water from two different wells and has its own water treatment plant. Well water typically has higher levels of various elements including manganese and iron. Both iron and manganese can cause odor and taste issues and has the potential to stain.
The ASRWSS uses surface water from the Missouri River which is treated at the new water treatment plant. ASRWSS representatives said there would no longer be high levels of manganese or iron if the city chose to utilize the ASRWSS pipeline.
An EPA representative was present at the meeting who had seen the water treatment plant earlier in the day and said the facilities looked very good and she felt positive about the project.
Although the benefits seemed promising, there were some concerns.
Dschaak asked if this would increase the difficulty of billing city residents since each household receives just one collective bill for all utilities. It was undetermined exactly how it would affect the billing process, but both council members and ASRWSS representatives agreed it would have to be looked at in the near future before a decision could be reached. It was also pointed out the project would cut costs to the city, but residents would not see a decrease in their utility bill.
Another concern was funding. Since the project is federally funded annually, the city as well as community members present worried the funding would fall through and leave the area scrambling to find a water source.
Those from ASRWSS attempted to placate these concerns.
“We don’t think we will have a shortfall. These projects have a lot of national attention,” said Watson.
He went on to say he understood the pressure currently weighing on the federal budget and recognized the risk, but believed it would not have an effect on their project since other projects like this have gotten consistent funding without any problems in the past.
A decision was not reached during the meeting, but the city council agreed it would consider all angles of the proposal and make a decision in the near future.