County pledging COVID relief dollars for water, sewer projects

The Cascade County Commission held a special meeting on July 21.

Commissioners ratified the fire restrictions that were implemented earlier this month and voted to pledge matching COVID-19 relief funds for water and sewer projects that must first go through the state’s competitive grant process.

Commissioner Joe Briggs said that the county received the first half of their American Rescue Plan Act funds for water and sewer projects and then the Legislature passed HB 632 with guidance on the state’s allocation of ARPA funds should be used, requiring a dollar for dollar match to any approved state funding.

In Cascade County, Briggs said there were six entities that submitted applications to the state for seven projects and the county is pledging to use their ARPA dollars as the match should those projects be successful in getting state funding.

The following county match dollars were approved:

  • Gore Hill Water District: $277,250
  • Vaughn Water and Sewer: $254,647.50
  • Black Eagle Sewer $500,000
  • Black Eagle Water $695,765
  • Sun Prairie Water $210,000
  • Centerville School $10,7673.40
  • Town of Cascade $136,250

Gov. Greg Gianforte said July 21 that the state had received more than 300 applications for water and sewer grants through the state’s ARPA allocation.

“The sheer volume of applications for water and sewer grants underscores the importance of applying ARPA funding toward responsible, long-term investments which the state has not made before,” Gianforte said in a release.

As required by HB 632, the first cycle of water and sewer grant applications were due July 15.

There were 320 total applications submitted by eligible government entities totaling $919.7 million. Through HB 632, the governor and legislature set aside $906 million for water and sewer infrastructure from the COVID recovery funds.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation is reviewing applications for eligibility and will rank them before they move to the Infrastructure Advisory Committee for consideration, according to Gianforte’s office.

Gianforte will grant the final awards.

This is a breakdown of the first round of applicants, some of which submitted multiple applications, according to Gianforte’s office:

  • 98 cities
  • 66 water and sewer districts
  • 63 towns
  • 32 state agencies
  • 25 counties
  • 16 irrigation districts
  • 7 water use associations
  • 6 consolidated city-county governments
  • 4 regional water authorities
  • 2 school districts
  • 2 conservation districts
  • 1 other – local government

“Grants are designed to help communities address the most urgent health and safety issues related to drinking water and wastewater systems. Local governments which received direct ARPA dollars can also choose to use those funds on water and sewer infrastructure,” according to Gianforte’s office.

The Infrastructure Advisory Committee has indicated there will likely be a second round of water and sewer grants.

Per the U.S. Department of the Treasury, ARPA State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds are designed to invest in:

  • drinking water infrastructure projects, such as building or upgrading facilities and transmission, distribution, and storage systems, including the replacement of lead service lines; or
  • wastewater infrastructure projects, including constructing publicly owned treatment infrastructure, managing and treating stormwater or subsurface drainage water, facilitating water reuse, and securing publicly owned treatment works.

More information on ARPA grant applications and Infrastructure Advisory Committee meetings is here.