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UPDATE: Billings water plant restarts at 'very low capacity'

Residents asked to conserve water
Posted at 11:15 AM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 18:41:19-04

Gov. Greg Gianforte's office announced Wednesday that Montana is seeking an expedited presidential major disaster declaration to aid with flooding throughout the state, primarily in the south-central region.

The request would open the door for additional federal funding to repair immediate damages from the flooding, including public water and sewer systems, the power grid, federal roads and healthcare facilities.

The request specifically highlighted damages in Stillwater, Carbon and Park counties, which have all seen evacuations, damaged homes, roads and bridges and interruptions to water supply in various communities.

The declaration was signed by Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras, who was in Red Lodge Tuesday to observe damage from the floods.

Gianforte is currently out of the country on a personal trip to an undisclosed location with his wife, but he is leaving early to return to the state, according to his office.

Gianforte's office declared a statewide state of emergency, also signed by Juras, on Tuesday.

Montana's congressional delegation, Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester and Rep. Matt Rosendale, sent out a joint statement Wednesday echoing the call.

Read the full declaration below:

(City of Billings Press Release)

Flooding on the Yellowstone River forced Public Works to shut down its water plant late Tuesday night.

As of Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., the water level at the plant reached more than 16 feet.

For the plant to operate effectively, the river needs to be at 15 feet or below.

The City of Billings is asking residents to conserve water, specifically refrain from watering grass and using irrigation systems supplied by the city water plant.

The water system has between a day to a day-and-a-half of water supply for Billings.

The duration of the issue is unpredictable, but hydrographs from the National Weather Service show water levels dropping two feet after it reaches its crest.

The latest prediction shows the Yellowstone River cresting on Wednesday.

Even after the river dips below 15 feet, the plant still has the task of cleaning filters to properly operate.

While the plant is shut down, residents might notice water pressure decreasing until the plant can turn back on.

Director of Public Works Debi Meling noted the Yellowstone River reached 87,000 cubic feet per second on Wednesday morning.

“Last year at this time we had 8,000 CFS and it was a record low,” Meling said.

These record levels make the event a 500-year flood.

Public Works assures the drinking water from the plant is safe to drink and we will immediately notify the community if that changes.

With temperatures forecast to reach the 90’s on Friday and Saturday, outdoor water usage will be tempting, but recent rains have saturated the ground, decreasing the need to keep grass and plants watered.

Other city operations have found ways to conserve water, including the fire department filling its water trucks with water from the Yellowstone River. Parks and Recreation has also stopped watering park grass on city water. The Street-Traffic Division has stopped watering grass in the right of way.

The City of Billings will alert residents as soon as water usage can return to normal.