New Blackfeet water treatment plant dedicated 7-07

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - Gov. Brian Schweitzer joined Blackfeet tribal leaders at a groundbreaking July 13, for a $4.9 million water treatment plant that will supply clean water to Browning and East Glacier.

The two communities currently receive bad water from separate systems, officials said.

The micro-filtration plant will treat water from Lower Two Medicine Lake, which the Department of Commerce described as "very pure," and is scheduled to be completed by July 2008. Swank Construction of Valier is the general contractor.

The firm will be working under an approved grizzly bear management plan because of the remote work site. The plan sets guidelines for working in bear country, such as the disposal of garbage.

"This isn't your typical job site," said Neal Ullman of the Commerce Department, which is funding a portion of the project. "It's in the middle of a forest."

Water will be immediately available to East Glacier residents once the plant is finished, but crews must build 10 miles of pipeline before Browning residents can receive the treated water. Pipeline construction could begin next spring or summer, Ullman said.

The Commerce Department has contributed $1.8 million to the project. Other funding has come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development Agency, Indian Health Services and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Several state and federal officials joined Schweitzer and Blackfeet Chief Earl Old Person at the ceremony, including Commerce Director Anthony Preite.