Montana Communities Receive Funding To Upgrade Drinking Water, Wastewater Systems

Jul 8, 2019

Fourteen Montana communities will receive a total of $6.5 million of federal funds this year for local infrastructure, housing development and job creation projects. That’s almost a million dollars over last year.

“On average, we receive about $5.8 million dollars. This year we received a bump,” says Jennifer Olson with Montana’s Department of Commerce.

A lot of the grant money will be going to small towns around the state who are trying to upgrade their drinking water and wastewater systems.

The town of Geraldine in central Montana received $450,000 to replace its sewer lines and install a new ultraviolet disinfection system. Whitehall, east of Butte, was awarded the same amount to drill a well and build a new water treatment plant. 

Montana’s cut of federal funding depends on the budget set by Congress. Olson says Congress and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development are "recognizing the need for states like Montana to make critical infrastructure investments.”

Olson says rural communities in particular have fewer people that can pay for a community’s roads, pipes and buildings. Plus, incomes tend to be lower.

"We want to make sure that affordability is part of the overall goal to make sure that infrastructure is not only helpful for the town but then also affordable for the residents,” says Olson.

Montana received an overall C on its 2018 Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Wastewater and drinking water systems both earned C minuses.

The report card says Montana will need $1.15 billion to address immediate water needs over the next 20 years. 

This spring the state legislature passed a $400 million infrastructure investment package, which was signed into law by Governor Steve Bullock. The Delivering Local Assistance Program announced Monday that $21.5 million of that package will be available as grants for local governments and school districts to improve water and sewage systems, bridges, public safety, government administration and schools.

The application window is open until Sept. 30. Awards will be made later in the fall.