Milk River Levee Restoration Project Continues, Creation of Special District Delayed

HAVRE, Mont. (NMB) – The Hill County Commission has provided an update on the ongoing project to fix deficiencies with the Milk River Levee so that it can remain in compliance with federal standards.

The Commission says the survey that is identifying and verifying encroachments is in its final stages, with monument markers currently being placed.

Next week, the Commission says that cameras will be installed in culverts. Relief wells have already been opened up and measured to check the water and silt level and find out where pipes are buried.

The Commission is continuing to work with BNSF to ensure contaminated soil is replaced while BNSF looks into fixing a leak in a fuel line that is pumping water underneath the tracks. The Commission says some diesel fuel is weeping into canals in the south side of the right bank of the levee.

The creation of a new Special Improvement District for the area protected by the levee has been delayed as the Commission waits to see if they will get competitive ARPA funding that the state will be divvying up in the first half of 2022.

The Commission says they hope to move forward with the creation of a District in mid-2022. A majority of landowners in the District will have to vote to approve its creation. The public should expect community outreach and engagement on this process in the coming months.

Also discussed was recreation opportunities on and around the levee. The plan at this time is not to proceed with changing the surface on top of the levee, as that would require permitting. However, people can walk and bike on the levee, and signage to provide information to the public on the path and history of the levee may be put up in the future.

They are also looking at putting parking and a restroom near the levee, and are looking at the possibility of making Smitty’s Pond a Fishing Access Site, as Fish, Wildlife and Parks Officials have told the commission they would like to dredge the pond. Discussions with landowners around the pond on this project are ongoing.

A price tag for the levee restoration project was previously roughly estimated at around $2.5 million, but a $3 million rough estimate was tossed around at a meeting on Wednesday. Up to $2 million of that could be provided if they are successful in getting state ARPA dollars. Over $850,000 for the project is coming from county-allocated ARPA funds, and the creation of a District and the possible reception of grants could also help out with funding.

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