ARPA funds push TC water project forward


March 31, 2022

Water Service, Inc., the non-profit corporation that manages the water system in Trout Creek, has been planning for improvements to the system for years. With the help of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), those plans are being put into action.

Doug Cooper is the president of the water board. “We never thought we’d ever have the funds,” Cooper said of the project. He said the funding will improve the existing water system in Trout Creek and make it solvent for years to come. “If we get these improvements done now, it’s going to last us decades.”

The $1.154-million Trout Creek project is being funded through two ARPA sources. The first is the Minimum Allocation Grant, which is money guaranteed to Sanders County. The county has committed $577,00 of its minimum allocation funds to the Trout Creek project. The other half of the funding will be from the ARPA Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, administered in Montana by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). In Montana, $150 million of the fiscal recovery funds must be used to fund water and sewer infrastructure projects.

Shari Johnson is an engineer helping the county administer ARPA funds to projects and is also working with the Trout Creek water board through the grant process. As this is the first water and sewer project to get this far in the ARPA funding process, Johnson met with the water board and county commissioners last week to outline the next steps for the water project. “There are a lot of good projects being done,” Johnson said last Thursday at the Sanders County Courthouse.

The Trout Creek water system currently serves about 125 equivalent dwelling units and is comprised of two wells, a 65,000-gallon storage tank, distribution lines and fire hydrants. The system was originally built for the Northern Pacific Railroad and was acquired by the Trout Creek Water Service in 1955. In the problem summary submitted with the grant application, the board stated that the pipe network consists of cast iron, steel, asbestos concrete and PVC pipe, and that metered water use at the two wells indicates that there is excessive water loss. As the system does not have service meters, finding leaks proves difficult. In addition, the system does not have backup power in case of a power outage.

The improvements to the system will include mapping of the current system, updates to the storage tank, service meters for each user, replacement of the main water line and service lines to properties, as well as installing a backup generator.

The next step for the Trout Creek water improvement project is engineering and design. Johnson noted that though the project has been accepted for funding by the DNRC, other projects are seeing delays and there will probably not be any construction on the project this year. She told the water board that costs for the project can be reimbursed back to March 2021.

Cooper attended last Thursday’s meeting with wife Lori, the board secretary, and Jim and Miriam Stonehocker. Jim Stonehocker serves as a board member and also the operator for the Trout Creek water system. The other board member is Liz Glackin, but she was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting. Johnson went over the process for receiving the funding now that DNRC has approved the project. The process is tedious and requires a lot of paperwork. While Cooper said it’s a bit overwhelming all that needs to happen next, he said it will be worth it in the end. “If we get these improvements done now, it’s going to last us decades.”

Properties connected to the Trout Creek water system play a flat fee. With the ARPA funding, Cooper said the hope it that they will not have to raise rates.

Cooper said that while construction likely will not start this year, as Johnson said during Thursday’s meeting, the board would like to get the backup generator installed this year. He thanked the commissioners, including former County Commissioner Carol Brooker, for getting involved and said the water board appreciates all the commissioners did. “We’re so excited for this,” added his wife Lori, who serves as board secretary.

Commissioner Glen Magera said he would like to see each community in the county get help rom the ARPA grants. The county has been awarded $2,349,343 in minimum allocation funding and another $1,054,280 in local fiscal recovery funding. Other projects that have submitted letters of intent for water and sewer projects to the county include replacement of the water system in the Woodside Park Water District near Thompson Falls, a new heating and cooling system at the Paradise Center, and renovations at the Old Jail Museum in Thompson Falls.


Reader Comments(0)


Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2023