Laurel Continues to Fix Water Woes - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

Laurel Continues to Fix Water Woes

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LAUREL -

The city leaders broke ground on their new nine million dollar waste water treatment plant Thursday. Although the new facility will help to make sure the water stays clean flowing into the Yellowstone River, it's how the city will continue to pull water out of the river which has been the focus for the past year.

According to city leaders, Laurel has proposed 22 different long-term solutions for a consistent and permanent fix for their water intakes along the banks. One of the simplest and most cost effective, according to the city, would be to put a permanent rock weir or dam near the water intakes.

"That has been met with some resistance from the permitting agencies from the state of Montana to go forward with that type of work in the Yellowstone River so we are now taking a step back and looking at the rest of the alternatives and trying to find the best solution for Laurel," said Laurel's public works director Kurt Markegard.

However, Montana's Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) disagrees and believes that plan isn't good for the long run.

"Any obstruction to both boating and fish passage is a concern to fish and to recreationalists so that's a concern. We're concerned about long term consequences that can lead to," said Jim Darling, the state's FWP fisheries habitat bureau chief.

Markegard sympathized with laurel residents who just want to have the project done for good. But he believes a long term solution is important for the city's future.

"We're interested in making sure that we have a viable water supply for not only this year and next year, but even something that can handle a flood like 2011, where we won't have to be sitting there scratching our heads wondering what do we have to do next," he said.

Markegard adds that since there are several other rock dams along the Yellowstone, adding one more to secure drinking water for the city's residents really shouldn't be a problem. But because requests to build a permanent rock weir have been repeatedly denied by the state, the city is moving forward with proposing other solutions until one is approved by the state.

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