Fergus Conservation District receives $250,000 grant

by Charlie Denison

The Fergus Conservation District received a generous $250,000 grant from the Army Corps of Engineers earlier this month. The funding will be used to help the Machler/Adams Big Spring Restoration Project north of town come to fruition after suffering a budget shortfall last year.

The Fergus Conservation District was one of 11 recipients of Army Corps of Engineers grants announced by U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) last week.

All recipients received funds through the Water Resources Development Act Section 595 Program for the purpose of upgrading wastewater treatment facilities, water supply infrastructure, environmental restoration and surface water resource protection and development.

Shonny Nordlund, Fergus Conservation District Administrator, said she is grateful for the grant.

“We are glad [Tester] is supporting Montana conservation districts,” Nordlund told the News-Argus.

The grant money, Nordlund said, will be used to help restore a section of Big Spring Creek that was straightened in 1961.

“This will add 1,200 feet of stream channel to the existing stream,” she said, “and will really improve water quality, the fishery and wildlife habitat.”

In order to fully fund the project, the Fergus Conservation District, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Helena District Bureau and other agencies are in need of a $1.7 million budget. With this grant, the group now has $1,462,218 of the budget covered.

“The goal is to bid the project as soon as possible, but we can’t bid the project until we meet the funding requirement,” FWP Fisheries Biologist Clint Smith said. “If all of these funding applications were to come through, we’d be looking at putting the project out for bid by late summer.”

Agencies are currently looking for grants and other funding sources, Smith said. If the funding is collected and a bid goes out this summer, work can start being done later this year.

“That’s a big ‘if,'” Smith said.

Now, however, they are close to their goal, and are hopeful bidding will be a reality by summer.

“We are seeking other funds if anybody wants to donate,” Smith said. “There are many parties involved in this. Tons of different organizations are helping and trying to get funding.”

Tester, who sits on the Appropriations committee that funds water projects, also announced Army Corps grants to Bainville, Bitterroot Conservation District, Butte, Gallatin Gateway, Harlowton, Roundup, Sanders County, South Winds Water and Sewer District, Sweet Grass Conservation District and Terry.