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Funds from HUD, BIA and Indian Health Service totaling $870,000 will allow tribes to improve system.

SUBMITTED MAP - The boundary of Warm Springs Water Treatment Plant Project is shown in this map.When tribal management realized earlier this year that two of the three pumps that supply water to the Warm Springs community had failed, the Tribal Council authorized application for a grant to keep the system operational and then kept their fingers crossed.

The tribes' water treatment plant, located on Dry Creek Road, near the Deschutes River, takes surface water from the river, which is then run through various purification processes and pumped into holding tanks or reservoirs.

HOLLY M. GILL - Bruce Irwin"It just so happens that two major pumps that supplied two-thirds of the water to our water tank reservoir network had stopped functioning and caused some concerns and panic amongst operators and management staff as to what to do to remedy this, when budget resources were strained already," wrote Bruce Irwin, grant writer for the tribes, in the application for a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development "imminent threat" grant.

On Aug. 22, HUD announced that the tribes will receive the $447,000 "imminent threat" grant it was seeking, which will be combined with $423,000 in funds from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service, for a total of $870,000.

The grant is part of HUD's Indian Community Development Block Grant program, which was authorized by the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act of 1996.

The 36-year-old water system serves more than 4,000 residents and visitors in developments located from Kah-Nee-Ta to the south side of Warm Springs, including the Wolf Point, Sunnyside and Upper Dry Creek subdivisions.

"Besides residential uses, this system serves governmental buildings, commercial uses, and industrial uses," Irwin noted. "The tribal Indian Head Casino, Museum and the Kah-Nee-Ta recreational area are the major commercial users that provide a variety of services to the visiting public."

With pumps each costing $65,000 or more, "There is no source of unobligated funds in the annual Warm Springs tribal budget that will allow the expenditure on such a large water treatment facility to address the threats encountered in the last few months," Irwin explained.

In a letter accompanying the application, Secretary-Treasurer Michele Stacona noted that the tribes and IHS had identified 10 water treatment and delivery system priorities needed to maintain public health.

"The former longtime supervisory employees weren't communicating with administrative management staff about the serious operational concerns and problems of a number of failing water treatment facility systems and not reporting to the EPA to be in compliance with federal water quality standards and policies," she wrote.

The tribes hope to be able to replace the entire system by 2022, but in the meantime, the pumps need to be replaced, new computer equipment needs to be purchased and installed, water filter media need replacement, a stainless steel water intake screen needs to be replaced, heating and cooling system controls need to replaced with digital controls, and two leaking backwash settling ponds need to be relined, among other items on the budget.

Based on the estimate of engineers, Stacona anticipated that "the rehabilitation of the water treatment and delivery network can be completed in five months."

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