Big Sky County Water Sewer district has been trying to keep up with growth, demand and antiquated facilities and regulations. Hopefully this infusion of cash will assist their efforts.
Water & Sewer District receives first ARPA check
Published January 18, 2023 By Jack Reaney
The Big Sky County Water and Sewer District received a check for $1.38 million on Jan. 11, after applying through the state for federal American Rescue Plan Act funding in 2021.
The district was awarded the maximum amount of $2 million, with the remainder to be disbursed later.
The ARPA award was among topics discussed on Tuesday during the district’s public board meeting. Other items included negotiations with the Big Sky Owners Association to trade water rights for a land easement, updates on the hiring process to replace District General Manager Ron Edwards as he nears retirement, a possible ordinance to protect the incoming Water Resource Recovery Facility by regulating grease discharge from restaurants and salt-based water softeners, an update on WRRF construction and its associated delays, and the proposed “Long Gun Ranch” minor subdivision of the Flat Iron development.
The ARPA funding must be used by the end of 2026, though Edwards explained that he believes that may be extended given the slow pace of construction projects nationwide. He said the money is restricted to the purposes stated in the application and will be applied mostly to engineering costs of the water resource recovery facility.
The WRRF remains under construction and behind its original goal of processing liquids by late May 2023. Due to supply-chain related delays in sourcing computer chips, the plant’s motor control center—District General Manager Ron Edwards called it “the brains” of the plant operation—cannot be completed on schedule.
The liquid-processing phase may be delayed six months, with setbacks also affecting the final stages of construction. These delays were first announced in the district’s November board meeting.
“Nobody can give us any assurance they aren’t going to push us back even more,” Edwards said.The WRRF is about halfway complete in terms of total concrete poured.
Three-way trade for the Little Coyote Pond
The Big Sky Owners Association is engaged in a project to conserve the West Fork Gallatin River by re-routing the river around a sediment pond which was used for decades, re-establishing uninterrupted river flow. With the pond closed off, the BSOA is planning to establish a fishery and community recreation area around the Little Coyote Pond but will need to secure water rights from the district first. Board members discussed the possibility of trading water rights to the BSOA in exchange for an easement—currently held by BSOA—which would allow the district to run a water main under Crazy Horse Road, eventually replacing an existing water tank and build an improved tank at the end of Crazy Horse Road.
NorthWestern Energy currently owns the land desired by the district, as it previously held a sub-station at the end of Crazy Horse Road. The land is now used to store unused equipment. The board discussed the possibility of a quitclaim deed exchange with NorthWestern, offering a small plot of land beside the WRRF.
“We are trying to trade [water rights] for an easement, both public community projects. And that’s a benefit to both sides,” Edwards said.