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Musselshell County land owners have questions about water project

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Posted at 11:32 PM, Mar 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-25 12:19:57-04

ROUNDUP - A big project has been in the works for about 20 years and the plan is to bring water to land just north of Roundup.

Some of the property owners have some concerns about the price, rights of way, and easements.

Musselshell County Commissioners say that's up to the Roundup Mesa Landowners Association (RMLA) to determine whether it will give permission to the newly formed Mid Musselshell County Water District (MMCWD).

Mark Snyder has owned a piece of land on the Roundup Mesa for two years.

“Just a fantastic view and it's peaceful,” Snyder said.

He's not ready to build on it.

"I can't put anything out here until this thing gets resolved,” Snyder said.

But he worries he's fighting a losing battle.

"They haven't negotiated any of this stuff with me,” Snyder said. “And there are plenty of other property owners around here that are the same way."

The Central Montana Regional Water District’s (CMRWD) $137 million project will potentially bring water to 7,300 homes in Judith Basin, Golden Valley, Wheatland, and Musselshell counties.

In September of 2023, Harlowton was the first to connect to the system.

"Give us the facts,” Snyder said. “Let us decide. And people that have opted out shouldn't have to pay for this or have people crossing their lands."

Snyder helped form the Roundup Mesa Quality of Life Coalition (RMQLC) which is concerned about everything from the price of the project and the monthly rates to a lack of permission or easements to use the private roads during construction.

"The homeowners association has not taken a position pro or against piped water. What they have said is stay off our private roads until you get our permission."

Three Musselshell County Commissioners and the Central Montana Regional Water Authority project director met with MTN on Friday.

They say the coalition's concerns with using the private roads should be addressed through the RMLA and MMCWD.

“We thought that subdivision would really want the water,” said Musselshell County Commissioner Mike Goffena. “So we went through the process of setting up a water district."

Goffena says all landowners had an opportunity to vote in the creation of the water district.

But since some had opted out of wanting water, so we're not given ballots.

"When we had the vote for the district, we had people from the other side come in and wonder why we didn't give them a vote,” Goffena said. “It's because you opted out. You don't get a vote. A couple of them wanted to opt back in so they could vote and then get back out. Well, that don't work."

That doesn't sit well with Snyder, who says he's all for everyone having water but can't support the project until he knows the costs involved and how much he and others may have to pay.

Commissioners say the monthly cost to residents depends on the number of users.

"Hold the phone until we can sit down and negotiate this stuff,” Snyder said. “And perhaps we can come to some kind of an agreement."

“There's not much role for us to do anymore except cheer them on,” Goffena said.