CMRWA 2008 Minutes

Central Montana Regional Water Authority
Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System
Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 1 p.m.
Homestead Inn, Broadview, MT

In Attendance: Steve Habener, Lavina; Jack Thoreson, Robert (Junior) and Maggie Conover, Broadview; Jim Kalitowski, Harlowton; Bob Church, Great West Engineering; Mark Cunnane, Western Groundwater Services; Rick Duncan, DNRC; Dustin White, Mid-West Assistance Program; Mike Waite, field representative for Rep. Dennis Rehberg; Liz Ching, field representative for Sen. Max Baucus; Monty Sealey, Central Montana RC&D Coordinator and Carrie Mantooth, Central Montana RC&D Assistant Coordinator.

New Harlowton Representative: The group welcomed Jim Kalitowski, who replaces Frank Hutton as the Harlowton representative.

Minutes of the Nov 12, 2008 meeting: As there was no quorum at the November meeting the Nov. 12, 2008 minutes are unofficial, but were distributed prior to the meeting to CMRWA members. No action was taken.

Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Jim Schladweiler was unable to attend the meeting, so Monty presented the treasurer’s report of $99,212.62 in the CMRWA account.

Water Policy Interim Committee (WPIC) Report: Monty expressed his concern once again about the Montana WPIC report and how it could affect groundwater policies. He said the Bureau of Reclamation has appropriated $4.2 million for groundwater studies and hydrogeological models for sub-basins; which could delay permitting. Discussion followed on the potential ramifications on groundwater projects like CMRWA’s. Bob feels that what’s fueling this issue is dissatisfaction with DNRC’s water rights process and said they want more science involved in the decision to grant water rights. Rick suggested that John Tubbs be invited to a CMRWA meeting to address these concerns.

Lobbyist: Monty said the town of Roundup, Musselshell County and Roundup School just put on a lobbyist and said CMRWA could get him to watch out for CMRWA interests during the Legislative session.

Phase I Feasibility Report, Water Supply Alternatives Evaluation, No. 2: Mark presented an overview of draft No. 2 of the water supply alternatives report. He evaluated four new well site areas; estimated drilling depths, along with capital and operation and maintenance costs; and discussed upcoming work including water rights analysis, DNRC meeting, infrastructure analysis, final recommendations and a drilling plan. Analysis included well-field lay-outs and parameters for Utica; the New Liberty site west and northwest of Buffalo; U-Bet site west of Garneill; Lode site northwest of Judith Gap; and Red Hill site on the south side of the Big Snowy Mountains. The report included well conceptual design; and wellfield parameters for the five sites including projections for the maximum drilling depth, average static water level, average total dynamic head and nominal pump horsepower. Discussion continued on revision of the projected water demands out to 2062, figuring 1-1/2 percent increase per year for 50 years. Monty wants to revisit that number and a study he reviewed indicates that percentage is inflated by at least a half a percentage point. Bob and Mark said they were ultraconservative in their numbers.

Discussion continues about advantages and disadvantages of each potential site. Mark said the main difference between these potential sites is the depth of the well. He favors the New Liberty site and estimates that it would be 600 feet closer to the surface than the Utica well. Water quality continues to be key, and Monty said the quality must meet the Clean Water Act standards or there’s no use proceeding. (The Utica test well meets that criteria.) Mark will send his draft report to DNRC for comments.

Bob reminded the group that the Bureau of Reclamation will require alternative sites explored. The next step will be to develop a drilling plan.

Bob said the well site alternatives needs to be developed more and could be funded through the Bureau of Reclamation. Since there isn’t funding to do a production well at this point, Bob said the first phase of construction may be test wells.

Next Phases: The next phase of the feasibility is a report on pumping and piping and total project costs of each potential well site. Bob thought this would be completed by the February meeting.

Bureau of Reclamation Meeting: Several representatives of CMRWA and RC&D attended a Bureau of Reclamation meeting in Billings Dec. 1 to hear about the new Rural Water Supply Program rules in Billings and federal assistance for planning.

The program allows Bureau of Reclamation to be involved in the planning, design and prioritization of water projects. CMRWA plans to request funds to continue the feasibility study, an eligible grant request. The detailed rules and guidelines have not been finished yet, but are expected to be released in March 2009. The appraisal will be submitted then. The earliest CMRWA can expect comment back is this summer. Officials from the Bureau said no project would receive a recommendation to Congress if they had bypassed them and not followed the Rural Water Supply Act rules and guidelines. Bob said he will comment on the act on behalf of CMRWA and said each community should also comment. One comment they felt should be made is that health and safety should be weighted equally. The new program doesn’t allow rural water for commercial livestock use. User’s ability to pay is also a consideration in the program.

DNRC Appropriation: Rick said that the DNRC base budget was resubmitted to the State, including funding for the CMRWA appropriation. CMRWA was not included in the one-time request for water projects. Rick said only federally authorized projects were included.

Stimulus Package: In the last month or so, state offices have been asked to compile lists of infrastructure projects that are ready to go that could be funded by a stimulus package by the new Obama Administration. Carrie said CMRWA was included on a list of projects that was sent by Snowy Mountain Development Corporation to John Rogers with Economic Development Administration. Discussion followed about specifically requesting drilling of a production well be submitted for inclusion on the list. Monty will follow up on this.

Next Meeting: As the next phase of the feasibility report should be ready in February, there will not be a January meeting. The next regular meeting will be Wed., Feb. 11 in Roundup and will likely be an evening meeting. With no other business, the meeting was adjourned.

Minutes prepared and respectfully submitted by:
Carrie Mantooth, Central Montana RC&D Assistant Coordinator

Central Montana Regional Water Authority
Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System

Wednesday, November 12, 2008, 1 p.m.
Black Bull Restaurant, Hobson, MT

In Attendance: Dale Longfellow, CMRWA Chairman; Lon Sibley, Roundup; Steve Habener, Lavina; Jack Thoreson, Broadview; Bob Church, Great West Engineering; Monty Sealey, Central Montana RC&D Coordinator and Carrie Mantooth, Central Montana RC&D Assistant Coordinator.

No Quorum: Chairman Longfellow opened the meeting, but again, there was no quorum, as there are currently no representatives from Harlowton and Broadview. The group decided to continue with the business at hand.

Minutes of the Sept. 24, 2008 meeting: As there was no quorum at the September meeting, the minutes are unofficial, but were distributed prior to the meeting to CMRWA members. No action was taken.

Treasurer’s Report: Treasurer Jim Schladweiler was unable to attend the meeting, so Monty presented the treasurer’s report of $111,072.23 in the CMRWA account. Great West Engineering has presented two bills, including one dated Sept. 1, 2008 for $10,290.99 and Oct. 1, $8,523.64. Steve Habener suggested members not in attendance be contacted to update them on CMRWA business, and Monty said he would email them. Bob Church noted that the bills are for the alternative study prepared by Mark Cunnane. The group agreed to pay the bills.

CMRWA Representation: Monty began the discussion by emphasizing the importance of updating the town councils on CMRWA progress in the last few years and recruiting new representatives from Harlowton and Broadview. Both towns have had council problems that have resulted in the loss of representation. (The problems have nothing to do with CMRWA.) Steve talked about the importance of recruiting community-minded people to serve with CMRWA and suggested putting up flyers or some means of active recruitment. Steve, Bob and Monty will try to get to the Harlowton City Council meeting.

From the beginning of this regional water project, organizers have said it would be a 10-11 year project and the group is at the halfway point. Bob said that even though the group didn’t receive a federal appropriation as hoped, it is important to stay positive and to focus on the steps that have been accomplished. Both he and Monty reminded the group that the project is on schedule. Although they would like to do more test well drilling now, it doesn’t have to be done yet. The good news is that CMRWA still has funding to proceed. Monty said another DNRC appropriation is likely, but he and Bob emphasized that they need to keep promoting the project and will need a lobbyist at some point. Bob has visited with Melissa Lewis of Jordan & Associates and she researched the federal requests. She is originally from Billings and has worked in Washington, D.C. for several years. They will be opening an office in Montana. Bob will invite her to attend the Dec. 10 meeting. Bob said the group should have a lobbyist on board in 2009 in order to ramp up for the 2010 authorization cycle. There will be an RFP process for a lobbyist. Monty will check if DNRC funds can be used for a lobbyist, but noted that in our request to DNRC, a legislative assistant (lobbyist) was included.

Hobson Water: Dale said he understands the strategy CMRWA is taking, but said Hobson has immediate problems that need to be addressed. He explained that three businesses and the school have received notices from DEQ threatening to shut them down because of nitrates in the water. Dale said there is good water at the Utica Test Well and Hobson needs that water now. He said he disagrees with CMRWA’s strategy to find funding for more test wells and said CMRWA needs to pursue getting Hobson hooked up to the Utica well. He said he needs funding to plumb the town and talked about his dilemma weighing the needs of Hobson (he is mayor) and his role as chairman of the regional water project. A lengthy discussion followed about the process for Hobson to put a water distribution in place and how the CMRWA funds can be spent. Bob and Monty explained that plumbing individual towns isn’t in the project scope, but getting the water from the well to the town is. However, since Hobson hasn’t begun the engineering for the water distribution system, even if the pipeline was in place Hobson wouldn’t be ready to hook up to it. They estimated that the water distribution system engineering, funding cycles and construction is a 3-6 year process. The group emphasized that they want to help Hobson and other towns in a similar position, but they can’t use CMRWA funds for uses other than what’s in the project scope. Discussion continued on funding for Hobson’s immediate needs. They will sell revenue sharing bonds, but it won’t be enough to fund the project and they will likely have to look at loans and grants. The funding strategy would be part of the engineering study. Discussion continued on being able to justify using CMRWA funds for preliminary engineering for looking at the Utica test well to Hobson line, and then perhaps servicing that debt through monthly water rates for Hobson. However, Bob pointed out, no money can be sent on construction until the project is authorized. Bob and Monty are going to work with Dale and the Town of Hobson to look into solutions, including getting a Treasure State Endowment Program (TSEP) grant application in by March, which has a 50/50 cost share requirement. Steve said Lavina has a similar problem and that’s why the town’s only café shut down earlier this year.

Status of “Value Engineering” Study: Bob presented an engineering and implementation project update which includes the project schedule, funding, report from lobbyist, report from Bartlett & West on the Bureau of Reclamation briefing on the Rural Water Supply Act; and engineer’s recommendations. Dale asked Bob to revise the report to include Hobson’s immediate problems and request for assistance from CMRWA, and Bob will do so. The report had a synopsis of funding to date; a total of $1.2 million in state funds from the Coal Board and DNRC. Bob’s report included news that there is still a possibility that CMRWA will receive $500,000 in one-time money through the 2009 Montana Legislature, which could be used for test drilling and/or lobbyist fees. Bob will be available to testify this spring, as will several other CMRWA members. Bob recommended that CMRWA pursue grant funding for the remainder of the feasibility report costs through U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) in 2009.

Other: Sidney Boe has resigned as Lavina’s mayor and has been replaced by Dave Kojetin. Steve will get names and addresses for all Lavina’s town council to Carrie to add to the newsletter mailing lists.

Next Meeting: The next meeting will be held Wed., Dec. 10 in Broadview at 1 p.m.

Minutes prepared and respectfully submitted by:
Carrie Mantooth, Central Montana RC&D Assistant Coordinator

Central Montana Regional Water Authority
Musselshell-Judith Rural Water System
Wednesday, September 24, 2008, 1 p.m.
Roundup City Council Chambers

In Attendance: Dale Longfellow, CMRWA Chairman; Jim Schladweiler, Lon Sibley, Joel Marking, Roundup; Thad Bassett, Melstone; Steve Habener, Lavina; Bob Church, Great West Engineering; Rick Duncan, DNRC; Monty Sealey and Carrie Mantooth, Central Montana RC&D; Stephanie Hellekson, Bureau of Reclamation; Liz Ching, Senator Baucas’s office.

Welcome and Introductions: Chairman Longfellow welcomed everyone and started the meeting by introductions around the room.

Minutes of the May 14, 2008 meeting: The last official meeting where there was a quorum was May 14 and those minutes had been emailed to the CMRWA members by Monty. It was noted that it won’t be possible to achieve a quorum since there are no longer representatives from Broadview and Harlowton. However, the group decided to continue with the business at hand. The board discussed the need to do some informational meetings in Harlowton. Dale, Monty and Steve are willing to head this up. Jim made a motion to approve the May 14 minutes, seconded by Steve and unanimously approved.

Treasurer’s Report and Bills: Treasurer Schladweiler reported a checking account balance of $124,458.09. A payment from DNRC of $111,750 was received in June. Bills include an invoice from Great West Engineering for $5,056.94 from several months ago, along with a new invoice of $7,258.92 for services July 27-Aug. 30; Westwind Design for the website, $1,040; and Montana Rural Water System, $75 for dues. Steve made a motion, seconded by Thad and unanimously approved to accept the report and pay the bills presented.

Audit Preparation: Monty said Loren Randall will need the check register and bank statements in preparation for the audit. He also wants to have an audit review committee to discuss any findings with. Steve Habener and Joel Marking will serve on the committee. An engagement letter for his services has been sent.

Federal Grant Application Status:

- Appropriation Requests: Monty said that at the Broadview meeting he talked about CMRWA’s appropriation requests that asked for funding through the State and Tribal Grant (STAG) or Water Resource Development Act (WRDSA) and were submitted to all three of Montana’s Congressional staff. Mary from Rep. Rehberg’s office said she called the D.C. office to find out the status and was told that the request shouldn’t have been under STAG or WRDA, so it wasn’t ranked. If CMRWA was applying to the wrong programs, the group wanted to know why no one told them that in February when they were making the requests. Liz Ching clarified that it was Rehberg’s office, not Baucus or Tester’s, that said they were applying to the wrong program and she didn’t think that was the case. She emphasized to the group that there were four regional water systems all seeking funding, and a number of community systems that are ongoing, and the real problem is that there isn’t enough funding to go around. Monty said the request wasn’t even ranked, so the quandary is they are wondering who the group needs to talk to in order to find out why. This was the second request to both programs, and it wasn’t ranked last time either.

Bob said the request showed a 2 to 1 match; while other projects didn’t have anywhere near that sort of leverage. Liz said STAG had about $5 million in funding, with $200-300 million in project requests. Monty asked her if there was opposition to the project being voiced to Baucus’s office. Liz said no, and reiterated that the problem is lack of federal funds to go around as the war is draining resources and there is a constant barrage of requests. She said there are other water projects that are farther along, but can’t get off the ground because they need an infusion of more federal funding. The group continued a lengthy discussion on the frustration of no response to their request that only asked for $300,000 as match for a production well.

- Bureau of Reclamation: The group also discussed Dry Red Water Rural Water Project and how it jumped ahead to request authorization before it had completed the steps requested by Bureau of Reclamation. Stephanie said the Rural Water Act does allow a group to go straight to Congress, but they won’t testify to support it if they do so. She emphasized that BOR strongly recommends completing the feasibility studies first, but that doesn’t mean Congress won’t overrule them and fund Dry Red Water’s project. Liz said Dry Red Water is going through the Army Corp of Engineers, since their water will be from Fort Peck. Stephanie said the new Rural Water Act rules will finally be completed in late October or early November. Funding for appraisal and feasibility can be applied for through grants.gov, however the group said they have secured funding for these items and won’t be asking BOR for that, they just want to meet the criteria outlined by the new Rural Water Act.
Stephanie said there will be about $9 million available for the 17 western states and there will be three or four projects competing for that. Bob recommended that CMRWA consider restructuring their funding strategy since they didn’t receive the appropriation, and possibly request funds from BOR for the drilling project. Stephanie said BOR will fund up to $200,000, with a 50/50 cost share. Rick suggested they ask for an extension on the DNRC grant which expires June 30, 2009, and continue seeking funding as match.

- Governor’s Office State Funding: Rick told the group that CMRWA may still be in consideration for state funding through the blanket request made to avoid cost indexing. The request was for $10 million for existing regional water projects, including ours, and Rick said that is still on the table. Rick also showed the group a legislative informational meeting organized by Montana Rural Water Systems. Dale was concerned that CMRWA wasn’t invited to participate, but those who will be presenting information are already authorized. CMRWA will still contact them to see if we can be included. Discussion continued about the need to build relationships and continually educate legislators and the public about the mission and status of CMRWA. Liz noted that the strength to get this project passed must be in the voting block/numbers. There is an increasing number of regions in the West that are running out of water; so the competition is going to keep getting more fierce.

Alternative Study – Mark Cunnane: Mark distributed the Phase I Feasibility Report, Water Supply Alternatives Analysis Interim Project Summary and went through a Power Point Presentation. He discussed the intent of the study; to look at water supply alternatives, and evaluate sources according to water supply potential, operations and maintenance costs and capital costs (wellfield and transmission.) He gave a background of the existing Utica Test Well; projected water demand and projected water right requirements, projecting to 2062. He talked about geological framework, drilling depths, aquifer hydraulic head, yield potential, water rights legal availability, reconnaissance field work, and candidate parcels. In summary, Mark said his study favors sites in the Judith Basin, and focused on several state parcels west of Buffalo and Garneill and a site west of Judith Gap. These sites should all have favorable flowing artesian conditions.

Monty said the locations the Phase I Feasibility Report favors are right where they wanted to drill a test well originally, but negotiations with a landowner failed and they ended up at Utica – the fourth choice. A landowner west of Garneill has contacted Monty and said he would be willing to let CMRWA drill a well on his land in exchange for providing water for his house.

The next steps will be “value engineering,” Mark said, and include conducting wellfield analyses of these targeted parcels; evaluate associated infrastructure changes; develop O&M and capital costs and compare alternatives. Having a well in a location that won’t require pumping uphill and with a static head at the surface will reduce project costs by $20-30 million and save a couple hundreds of thousands in O&M each year.

Website-Public Outreach: Monty showed the board the newly developed CMRWA website at www.centralmontanawater.com. Carrie will add more copy, including the Draft Appraisal and Phase I Feasibility Report. Liz also suggested adding CMRWA’s partners, including all the Legislative delegation and agencies.

Adjournment: With no other business, the meeting was adjourned.

Minutes prepared and respectfully submitted by
Carrie Mantooth, Central Montana RC&D Assistant Coordinator