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Facts about the numbers

Editor,

Mission and Jocko Irrigation Districts passed a resolution for operation and maintenance costs for the 2019 irrigation season to remain at $29 per acre. We refused the $4.50 increase. The Flathead District has not made a final decision. Here’s reasons for this decision.

1. In 2017, a $3 increase was passed by the Flathead Joint Board of Control. The Flathead District’s five commissioners voted unanimously for this increase. This gave the BIA a $363,000 increase in funds, paid by 2,500 irrigators. BIA’s reason for the increase, was staffing. Many positions were not and are not filled at this time, note that the BIA pay rate is much higher than rate paid to workers for the CME.

2. The BIA operations manual requires certain personnel to operate the Flathead Irrigation Project. The project is operating without a full time Project Manager, who is filling the BIA superintendent’s position at Pablo, short a hydrologist, fish screen operator, two to three ditch riders, and a maintenance worker. You pay full wages for these workers on your tax bill yearly, at the $26 and $29 rate. Project manager was paid $120,000/ year alone under the CME. Where are these excess funds?

3. In 2014 the CME fell apart, and over $5,000,000 was in Flathead Irrigation accounts at Eagle Bank. The BIA managed to spend $1,000,000 in 2014, and moved the rest to the BIA accounts in Portland. In 2015 the BIA spent another $1,000,000 on the Cal-Poly study on the modernization of the Flathead Irrigation Project - this leaves $2 to $3 million somewhere in BIA’s accounts.

4. The Flathead Irrigation O&M rate is about the highest in Montana now at $29/ac. Huntley Project pays $20/ac for over 2 ac ft of irrigation water, twice the water we are promised. Huntley Project Irrigators raise sugar beets, corn and other high value crops. For the Tongue River project at Miles City, irrigators pay less than $15/ac. The reason for high costs for the Flathead Project is BIA management, employee retention and cost, and procurement practices. We urge the Flathead Irrigation District to join us in refusing this unnecessary financial burden for our valley. Call your commissioners.

Tim Orr Mission
District Commissioner
St. Ignatius

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