U.S. Water News Online
FORT PECK, Mont. -- An Alaska Native engineering company
wants to design and build the Fort Peck tribes' new water pipeline as
part of a joint venture project.
Arctic Slope Regional Corp. is proposing a profit-sharing plan
with the tribes and promises that participation from Indian
contractors will be maximized.
A design-and-build plan is the quickest way to get the project off
the ground, said Terry Kenyon, one of three company officials who
visited Fort Peck recently.
A design-and-build plan calls for a conceptual design at the
outset. The company that lands the contract refines the project as it
develops, making necessary changes along the way.
Groundwater in the area surrounding the reservation in
northeastern Montana is contaminated with iron and sulfates and is so
bitter many residents rely on bottled drinking water. The federal
government has approved building a huge pipeline to serve the area,
transporting water from nearby Fort Peck Lake.
Kenyon stressed that Arctic Slope is looking for a partnership
that will lean heavily on local resources.
``So many times a company comes to town and the lion's share of
the profits end up leaving the local community,'' Kenyon said.
However, Arctic Slope is offering a nearly 50-50 deal to the tribes
in a joint-venture effort.
In a recent executive session, the Tribal Executive Board approved
hiring Mike Watson of Helena-based Watson Engineering to complete the
design portion of the $192 million project. Watson, a non-Indian, has
been working with the tribes' water resources office for the past
Arctic Slope officials said they still would like to be involved
in the project, even if it means forgoing the design stage. The
primary concern expressed by local contractors is that the tribes
stick with Indian-owned firms and contractors in the design and
construction of the 3,000-mile distribution system, something Arctic
Slope has said it will do.
The company has drafted a memorandum of understanding that allows
the tribes to take full advantage of Arctic Slope's resources and
available mechanisms to complete the project. Company officials have
been visiting Fort Peck over the past seven months learning about the
tribes and its resources, as well as the project.
``Traditionally, things happen a year later when an agreement is
made. But if we joint-ventured with the tribes, we would expect to be
on the ground starting construction as early as November,'' said
Arctic Slope president and CEO Charles Brower.
Arctic Slope is an engineering, architectural and technical
services consulting firm based in Barrow and owned by the Inupiat of
the North Slope. The company recently was named by Forbes magazine as
one of the top 500 design firms in the country and has earned more
than $1 billion in non-gaming revenues.
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