Groundwater origins are focus of Eureka meetings

December 16, 2018

Mike Cuffe spoke first about the sort of conflict Monday’s meetings near Eureka hope to avoid.

“The whole point is not to argue with anybody or to point fingers at anybody,” Cuffe said.

Instead, he said, the focus will be about what he described as “scientific facts” about groundwater north of Eureka, with information about its suspected origins and flows.

There have been related disputes in recent years.

For example, in 2016, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation denied a beneficial water-use permit sought by Indian Springs Ranch Water and Sewer. The state agency ruled that Indian Springs had “not proven by a preponderance of the evidence” that surface water could reasonably be considered legally available in the over-allocated Tobacco River during the period sought by the Indian Springs development.

Ultimately, in June, Indian Springs appealed that ruling to the Montana Supreme Court. But then it withdrew the appeal in September.

Cuffe, a state senator-elect, said specialists from the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology have been gathering data for 18 months. He said he requested a study two years ago.

He said information has been collected from more than 80 wells from a wide geographical area, ranging from the Canadian border to the Tobacco River and from the foothills on the east to Lake Koocanusa on the west.

The data has been charted and compiled for a PowerPoint presentation.

“This is a team of scientists who aren’t involved in land management or water-use decisions,” Cuffe said. “They deal in scientific facts.”

He said that dissolved minerals in groundwater can help identify its origins.

Cuffe said there will be two meetings Monday, one at noon and one at 7 p.m., both at RiverStone Family Lodge north of Eureka.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at 758-4407 or dadams@dailyinterlake.com.

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