Local water and sewer districts ranked for federal grants
By Bella Butler EBS STAFF
HELENA – Montana state officials are working through the process of deciding how to fund applicants across the state seeking federal funding for various water and sewer grants. The first step in the process—ranking and scoring the projects—is now complete. The state is now seeking public comment on projects up for final funding consideration.
Big Sky’s two water and sewer districts were ranked 39th and 61st out of the Montana applicants who applied for grant funding through the American Rescue Plan Act, a nearly $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that President Joe Biden signed into law in March.
Montana received nearly $3 billion of ARPA funding, $250 million of which the Montana Legislature appropriated for water and sewer grants. The Legislature also appropriated $150 million for water and sewer minimum allocation grants, which are not competitive.
Both the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District as well as the newly formed Gallatin Canyon County Water and Sewer District applied for the maximum competitive grant—$25 million each—for capital projects including the Big Sky’s forthcoming wastewater recovery facility improvements as well as infrastructure to facilitate central sewage collection for the developed Gallatin Canyon area corridor.
In this first round of grants, 320 applicants applied for a collective total of more than $900 million. Each application was scored and ranked by a team from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation including technical experts in drinking water, wastewater, engineering, and project management.
Applications received points for their readiness to proceed, use of matching funds, affordability and addressing health-based standards. Both local districts received maximum points for use of matching funds but scored low on affordability. According to the applications, the Big Sky district’s project will cost approximately $60.2 million and the Gallatin Canyon district’s project will cost $51.4 million.
The Big Sky district’s application was ranked No. 39 and was the top-ranked project that asked for the maximum grant. The Gallatin Canyon district’s application was ranked No. 61.
At a meeting on Aug. 26, the state-appointed Infrastructure Advisory Commission will review rankings and scores to move forward with recommendations to Gov. Greg Gianforte on which applicants should receive grant funding.