Bigfork Water and Sewer District residents passed a $5.3 million general obligation bond by a wide margin on Feb. 26, clearing the way for the construction of a new tank and water main.
“We’re really excited,” said Julie Spencer, Bigfork Water and Sewer District manager.
The bond will help the community pay for a new water storage tank and water main. Spencer said with the money in place, the district will now start designing the new systems (so far only preliminary designs have been made). If everything goes according to plan, the water district will begin the projects within the next year and a half.
Jeff Cicon, project manager for Morrison-Maierle, said Bigfork’s current 350,000-gallon water tank located near Montana Highway 35 north of the village, is not sufficient to meet the town’s future needs and would be quickly depleted in the event of a fire.
The new tank will hold an additional 750,000 gallons of water, ensuring the community has plenty of additional water in the summer.
Currently, Bigfork gets most of its water from four large wells north of town; much of that water goes directly to homes and businesses via a transmission main, while some is directed to the 350,000-gallon storage tank. For most of the year, that tank is full, but in the summer — when Bigfork’s population booms with summer visitors and lawns need to be watered — that storage can be quickly depleted. Bigfork’s water and sewer district has not had to implement water restrictions in the past, but without a new storage tank it would have to in the future, Cicon said.
The water district decided to build the new water main to coincide with road construction along Montana Highway 35 through what is called Ice Box Canyon, where the current water main runs. That section of highway is slated for improvement in the coming years, and officials say keeping the water main online during construction will be challenging. The new main would go to the west, around Ice Box Canyon, and not be impacted by roadwork.
Lastly, the bond will also help pay for the water district to repaint another old water tank with peeling lead paint near the high school football field. Officials said the peeling tank does not pose a health risk at this time — the water district routinely tests for lead in the drinking water — but the tank’s metal is now exposed, making it susceptible to the elements. Spencer said the district hopes to repaint the water tank this year.
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