Hill County Commission Provided Update on Milk River Levee

A portion of the right bank of the Milk River Levee located just west of the viaduct. (Credit: Josh Margolis)

HAVRE, Mont. (NMB) – The Hill County Commission met with representatives from Great West Engineering on Wednesday to discuss the latest when it comes to the project to repair the Milk River Levee so that it can remain in compliance with federal standards.

A survey of the levee has been completed, the right-of-way map is done, and culverts have been inspected, and encroachments have been verified. Fences that are encroaching on the levee will have to be moved, shrubbery along the levee will need to be mowed or cut, and tree stumps along the toe of the levee must be removed and replaced with soil.

This work should be able to be done with the ARPA dollars the County has already set aside for this project, according to the Commission.

Several buildings have also been identified as encroaching, and one property is entirely within the flowage easement. Jeremiah Theys of Great West Engineering says they will propose to the Army Corps of Engineers that the structures be considered legacy easements. Theys says the encroachments don’t inhibit monitoring of the levee.

Commissioner Mark Peterson said if successful, this effort would be a huge savings for the County, as they would have to find an alternative otherwise.

Other work that needs to be done to ensure compliance, the Commission and Great West Engineering says, includes inspecting all relief wells and ensuring there is a way to enclose the two portions of the levee that have been penetrated by the railroad if flooding were to occur.

When it comes to relief wells, Theys says that they know at least three will need to be replaced. However, there are 43 in total, and many are too full of algae to do have cameras determine their status. This means the wells will need to be further inspected to determine how many need replacement.

These objectives will hopefully be completed in 2023, provided a Special Improvement District is established.

In order to afford these objectives, the Commission has been working to create a Special Improvement District. And because Hill County was denied competitive state ARPA funds for this project, landowners would be asked to contribute more than initially expected.

Talks remain in early stages, but Theys said the County would be seeking to borrow about $2 million dollars through a loan that could be repaid over 20 years. Having it repaid over 40 years was another idea that was floated.

This District would replace RSID 10 and would assess landowners in the flood plain on an annual basis to fund improvements and maintenance of the levee. Theys says there are about 1,000 parcels in the District, but some are owned by the government and would likely be exempt from paying into the District. If assessments were to be done on a per parcel basis, taxpayers would likely be assessed between $150-$200 per year. However, the method of assessment has not yet been decided, and may not end up being on a per-parcel basis.

Once details are figured out, the County will engage a bond council and then work to officially create the District. A public comment period would be initiated. The owner of each assessment would then have a chance to protest the creation of the District. If less than 50 percent of those that would be assessed do not file a protest, the District would be officially created.

Theys says it is crucial they get the District created and filed by the end of this calendar year in order to get the funding necessary through the loan to work on some of the big ticket items in 2023 that are necessary for keeping the levee in compliance.


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