Neighbors and residents near Bentonite Road noticed when the trucks started working again in the last few weeks after the deep cold caused a break for Macon Construction of Wolf Point. The trucks started digging with the backhoe as the deep freeze finally lifted and the ground thawed.
The construction company is contracted out by the Dry Prairie Rural Water Authority and is finishing the effort to supply the area with clean water. Clint Jacobs, director of the project, explained that the area is called Valley County Area D, which is south of Milk River and just west of Glasgow. The area is only one of many areas looking to receive water from Dry Prairie.
“We’re trying to supply water to every farmer, ranchers, town and city,” Jacobs said. “We’re the regional water authority and are authorized by state code to work with the community to provide safe drinking water to those who want to be connected.”
The project runs through city and county lines and created a huge water district for areas where fresh drinking water can be hard to come by. Well water can sometimes be full of iron, salt and sediments and filter systems can cause a headache and extra costs. Wells also have the potential of drying up in hot years. Glasgow started to see sign-up campaigns around August 2007. Dry Prairie worked with Boeing for water at St. Marie and construction began in 2008.
In Area D, near Bentonite Road, water is hooked up to Glasgow city water. An agreement was made with the city to purchase up to 75,000 gallons of water a day, which Jacobs said is plenty. He explained that there are already 40 farmers and ranchers in the area signed up to receive the water. The contract for Macon Construction was awarded last fall for $1.4 million. The project in the Bentonite Road area should be completed by the end of April. The project included 32 miles of pipeline to hook up.
“That’s relatively small in miles and dollars compared to others (areas),” Jacobs said.
Those about to receive city quality water are not the first in the county to work with Dry Prairie. The town of Nashua has been receiving water, later joined by areas around Fort Peck and St. Marie. Over 250 rural users reside to the east of Glasgow and there are many who will be served in the future.
Dry Prairie uses millions of dollars of federal and state money, mostly federal, added with local borrowing to complete each project. The average bill for water users is around $40 a month.
“Dry Prairie water has transformed lives,” Jacobs said. “Water delivered that meets state and federal levels add to property values and it’s safer and better.”
Only 24 percent comes from state funding and local borrowing. Local revenue bonds aren’t associated with property taxes and the financing allows for volunteer participation, so those not interested aren’t required to take Dry Prairie water. Later down the road if a farmer or rancher wants to hook up, water will be available but the construction costs may not be covered.
Once the project is fully completed the annual cost of operation, maintenance and debt service is $2.1 million. With the project scheduled to finish by 2020, Dry Prairie will continue to act as the operations and maintenance.
The project all started in 1992, when the Fort Peck Tribes realized the water supply issues had to be addressed. The system designed in 1994 included the whole reservation and, by 1997, a committee was set up to work on expanding the water project to regional area. When Dry Prairie became a water authority, expansion became a reality.