Water Project Forges Ahead in Libby

By Beacon Staff

Although the largest piece of the project – the replacement of the Flower Creek Dam – has been delayed, Libby’s $12.4 million water improvement project is moving forward. Mayor Doug Roll said contractors have been working around Libby most of the summer and into the fall replacing leaking water pipes, broken meters and installing new pressure reducing valves to help increase water pressure in the southern half of town. Roll said work would continue until mid-October and the rest of the project would be completed in 2014, with the exception of the dam.

Meanwhile, U.S. Fish and Wildlife will be finishing a biological opinion in the coming weeks that could clear the way for the Flower Creek Dam replacement. The project was set to begin this year, but was delayed when local Fish and Wildlife officials rescinded a previous approval of the project.

“We’re hoping by the end of the year to have everything in place, including funding, so we can get a bid in next year,” Roll said.

The water improvement project began earlier this year and set out to replace and repair large parts of the city’s water system, some of which has been in operation since 1911. The project includes the replacement of the Flower Creek Dam, which holds back the city’s drinking water, the replacement of thousands of feet of water piping and updates to more than 100 water meters throughout the city.

City administrator Jim Hammons said about half of the 114 broken water meters have been replaced at residential homes and commercial facilities around town. Contractors have also installed two pressure reducing valve systems on the south end of town and have three more to install. The valve stations will increase water pressure in certain parts of town, an issue local residents have dealt with for years.

One of the largest parts of the project will start in the next few weeks, when pipes are replaced under six blocks of 10th Street between Idaho and Louisiana avenues.

“There are so many (pipe) crossings and valves in that area, so we’re hoping to do it one block at a time,” Hammons said. “(The project) has gone well and people have been patient with us because we’ve had to tear up some big sections of town. But to fix it, we’ve got to dig it up.”

How much work can be completed this fall will depend on the weather, Roll said, adding that the construction season will conclude some time in mid-October. The rest of the work inside the city of Libby will be completed next year.

Also next year, water rates may increase in Libby because of the extensive project, but Roll said it mostly depends on how much money it gets from the USDA Rural Development fund to pay for the new dam. Current water rates in Libby are $33 for approximately 3,000 gallons of water a month in the city and $41.28 a month for residents outside of city limits.

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