Canyon Ferry pipeline could help Gallatin Valley water supply, officials say

Canyon Ferry .jpg
Posted at 10:29 AM, Jan 25, 2024

CORRECTION, 9:55 p.m., 01/24/24: Belgrade City Manager Neil Cardwell stated the following in an email to MTN News:

"The City of Belgrade is not currently considering the creation of a regional water authority. The study in tonight's news is one that Belgrade helped fund and participate in, along with the City of Bozeman and the county, and it is currently in draft form. Belgrade believes there are many other facets to be considered and studied before considering such an enormous ask of our community. We disagree with many of the conclusions and assumptions in the current report, most critically with the idea of a regional water authority. We are currently working on our Community Master Plan, and one of the focus areas is our water and wastewater strategy, where we look to study more reasonable options for our community. Despite Belgrade's rapid growth, we continue to be able to keep up with demand in the near term and for our upcoming development. Belgrade believes strongly in a balanced approach to the ongoing growth of the valley while ensuring our ability to manage our water and wastewater systems."

(Original report)

BOZEMAN — Water is a scarce resource here in the Gallatin Valley. So now the City of Bozeman, the City of Belgrade, and Gallatin County are looking to create a water authority that could potentially bring in water from Canyon Ferry all the way down into the valley.

“One of the limiting factors is infrastructure, specifically water, access to water. So we thought, why not get together and have a discussion about a regionalization program,” says Bozeman City Manager Jeff Mihelich.

Local leaders are pitching a regional water authority that would create water and wastewater infrastructure for the Gallatin Valley.

"Water up in Hyalite, we can't rely just on that alone,” says Mihelich.

With the population in the valley expected to hit 250,000 people in 20 years, cities are looking to tap into other regional water sources.

“Constructability of these resources, again, both a joint water reclamation facility and also perhaps a larger pipeline,” says Mihelich.

The cities are proposing a nearly 60-mile pipeline between Canyon Ferry and the Gallatin Valley. It could cost anywhere from $1.5 billion to $5.7 billion. A feasibility study was just completed.

“Is it physically possible from an engineering standpoint to build a regional water reclamation facility? The answer to that is yes,” says Mihelich.

Some residents expressed concern at Tuesday's commission meeting about building a project of this scale. Mihelich says water downstream won't be an issue.

“So we're really not depleting the Canyon Ferry resources. We're just using that for potable water to help fully support affordable housing. But then that water is actually going back in Canyon Ferry,” says Mihelich.

Mihelich says other cities along the route could benefit from the pipeline, which could help pay for the multi-billion-dollar project.

“Through federal resources grants, state resources grants, and then any community that wants to participate,” says Mihelich.

The City of Bozeman moved forward with looking at creating a government authority; it would still be a decade before the pipeline would be built.