Seeley Swan Pathfinder -


By Beth Hutchinson
Seeley Lake, Mont. 

Opportunity Too Good to Miss


December 14, 2017

SEELEY LAKE - Think about this. Don’t miss grabbing the golden ring.

Presently, there are more than 3,000 separate parcels within the Missoula County portion of the Clearwater Valley and watershed. There are more than 1,500 living units, including cabins on state and federal land as well as mobile homes on rented lots which have personal property taxes levied on them. Additional parcels and living units lie within the valley/watershed in Powell County.

If a Clearwater Valley Watershed Consortium [CVWC] were established, it would be both a snap and affordable to gather up roughly $640,000 a year to apply to water quality health for the entire ground and surface water system.

Raising this tidy sum of money could be accomplished by taxing 1) vacant lots $100 a year, 2) private lots with living units $300 a year and 3) living units [cabins on state and federal land as well as mobile homes on leased lots currently paying personal property taxes] $200 a year as well as applying a back assessment of $500 when parcels are subdivided or have extra living units placed on them.

The CVCW could become an alternative model for water quality sustainability and wastewater treatment in a state where one of the Missoula County district attorneys said regulations regarding special utility districts were a disaster for all concerned.

A format for such an organization would focus on sanity and science by installing a council representing population numbers and local special interests/conditions. In the Clearwater Valley’s case, a council of eleven should do the job [and prevent any single interest group from dominating decision-making].

Nine population-linked representatives and two special interest/condition-linked representatives [business and seasonal usage] who would need to participate in training in appropriate governance behaviors and strategies prior to running for election would strengthen our community-building capacity. By having trained individuals representing us, it is highly likely that selected projects would be accomplished more smoothly, creatively and soundly.

Funds could be used to 1) complete proper analysis of various environmental problems, 2) to inventory and assess the real status of existing wastewater treatment units, 3) to develop both granting and revolving-loan pools that would judiciously support different parts of the population and make up-grades easier and more affordable than the proposed sewer project does, 4) to communicate and educate in a timely and appropriate manner, to service replaced units and 5) to monitor water quality into the future.

It should be manageable to secure support from our state and county representative for a special bill to modify Montana Code and place the handling of such a serious and challenging issue as sustaining water quality in the hands of a more capable and representative group.

Tunnel vision, fragmentation of the community and fixation on external funding sources cannot solve the assorted pressures that our inter-connected and living water system poses. Collecting the suggested funds translates to more than $25.6 million over 40 years, creates a balanced individual and community responsibility and pursues sustainability valley-wide.

Don’t do nothing; begin your healthy engagement. Support our larger community. Get the most out of your buck and participate in building better social, economic and physical environments. Act promptly and walk or overnight your protest letters into the secretary of the sewer district.


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