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Board approves water study

William De Groot, manager, Chocolay Township

HARVEY — The Chocolay Township Board of Trustees Monday unanimously approved a public water feasibility study for the township.

In December 2020, the board began a discussion of four-year priority projects, and targeted the options for a public water study. The last time the subject was studied was in 2001, making that study too old to use as a basis for public water supply funding.

The goal in mind at the end of the feasibility analysis, Township Manager William DeGroot said, is to have two major questions answered: where and at what cost?

“That way at least we understand what the opportunity is for some of the areas around the township that we know are issues,” De Groot said.

These sites include Kawbawgam Road, the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community water tower and southern areas of the township.

Construction and design are not focuses now, said DeGroot, with just “round numbers and feasibility” the current major points. The township will pay the cost of the study through federal American Rescue Plan Act funding specifically identified for public infrastructure projects.

De Groot estimates the cost will be between $100,000 and $150,000.

A statement of understanding for the study has been drafted with OHM Advisors, based in Hancock.

“I thought it was important to keep the regional knowledge,” De Groot said.

According to the OHM draft, a water feasibility study for the township was completed in 1994, and a preliminary water system phasing study was finished in 2001. Both studies anticipated large user fees as a result of estimated capital expenditures, which stopped the progression of a public water system.

“With recent complaints in water quality and the potential of attracting economic development, it is our understanding that Chocolay Charter Township is still interested in providing safe and reliable drinking water to the public and would like to re-investigate the feasibility of a public water system,” the draft reads. “It is believed that with more federal funding anticipated to be available and strong public outreach, township residents and businesses will be (in) support of a public water system.”

The key phases that will need to occur to progress to the final phase of construction are the feasibility study; public outreach and community engagement; Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy permits and approval; funding applications and lobbying; a detailed rate analysis; design; and construction.

The draft also indicated that the study will include investigating potential water source options, regional geology and hydrogeology, demographics, water service areas, anticipated water demands, capital improvement needs for distributing water, funding opportunities and planning-level rate analysis. The study would guide the township in determining the most practical path regarding public water accessibility and affordability.

“There is a new 18-inch water main that comes down from Shiras Hills all the way to the water plant that didn’t exist in 2001, so there are opportunities,” De Groot said.

Trustee Dave Lynch acknowledged water is an issue, having put thousands of dollars into water treatment at his residence.

“My neighbor’s (water) is untreated, and she goes to local springs to get water for drinking,” Lynch said. “It’s that bad along the road. Not everybody can afford to put in a system like I have.”

Treasurer Ben Zyburt said, “My feeling is it’s an eventuality that’s going to have to be addressed now or down the road, and if we have the funds to do it now, we should do it.”

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.

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