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Landowners express interest in Carlile water district

 

November 5, 2020



There appears to be some initial local interest in the idea of forming a water district for the Carlile area, said Jaime Tarver on Monday. Representing DOWL, the company that performed a year-long study into water issues in that part of the county, Tarver gave her final report and discussed the reactions of the public at a meeting on October 20 during which local residents were informed of study’s results.

That meeting saw 15 people in attendance, she said, representing around 12 landowners. A questionnaire was handed out to gauge interest in the project; four of those who responded were in favor and two said “maybe”.

“We didn’t have any that submitted a response against this. I think there is interest,” Tarver said.

The questionnaire also asked about respondents’ interest in being a “champion” of the project. One person said they would be interested in serving on the steering committee, said Tarver, and two said “maybe”.

The study determined that the water quality in the area is generally poor and yields are generally low. The Madison aquifer is the best source, but it’s not feasible to drill individual wells to that aquifer at depths of around 2500 feet.

The recommendation reached by the study was for a regional water source that would target the Madison aquifer with a regional transmission system connected to the City of Gillette’s Madison water system, governed by a water district with a financing package of grants and loans that would allow the project to be self-sustaining.

The district could then levy a mill to finance the system. “Only the folks within the district would pay those taxes. It wouldn’t be countywide,” Tarver clarified, answering a concern that was brought up recently by the county commission.

The pros of this option, said Tarver, include that it would make use of an existing system and proven water source, would have the lowest initial and monthly cost of all options and the district would be eligible for grants and loans. However, the cons include the need for a district and volunteer governance, the need for an agreement with the City of Gillette and the lack of autonomy.

The next step, said Tarver, is to form a steering committee, which she estimated would take three months. The committee would determine the level of interest and garner support, choose what type of entity should govern the water system, determine the boundary of the water district and begin the conversation with funding agencies and the City of Gillette.

The next step would be to form a legal entity, which Tarver estimated would take up to a year, to form the district and its board and refine the project. Finally, beginning in fall 2021, the district could begin applying for funding.

During the public meeting, Tarver said, several questions were raised and answered. For example, the area could probably support double the number of individual wells it has now, but the quality is going to vary wildly across the study area and even from year to year.

DOWL representatives were asked whether residents of the Kanode Subdivision could connect to the City of Gillette system without the larger project. “Yes, they can, however it’s not recommended,” said Tarver, explaining that smaller groups have trouble covering the overhead and costs that can be spread out further with a larger district.

County Attorney Joe Baron offered advice to local landowners that they should secure the help of an attorney at the beginning of the process, and make sure that attorney has experience in this area “so you’re not paying to reinvent the wheel all the time”. He clarified that there are ways in which the elected officials in the courthouse can assist, such as with mapping, but this is not a process that courthouse offices can do on behalf of landowners.

Public comments on the draft study are due by November 13, after which the final version will be available on December 1.

 
 

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