U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deanne Criswell toured the Billings water plant Friday to see firsthand the flooding impact on the city’s water supply.

According to a press release from the city of Billings, Criswell’s visit comes at a convenient time since the Public Works Department has requested help from FEMA for the past few years. The city applied for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) grant in 2021 and 2022.

“We have an ever-changing river that makes operations very difficult, increasing demands and we have been asking FEMA for funds to build our West End Project for several years through grant applications,” said Director of Billings Public Works, Debi Meling. Having Criswell come to our city and see our plant and see the river in all its unrestrained beauty shows how advantageous it will be for us to have that West End facility.”

If the grant is approved, it will give the city $50 million towards the estimated $140 million project. The West End Facility project would include two reservoirs on the Billings west end and an additional water plant. The new water system would give the city 40 days’ worth of drinking water. The system would also allow Billings to withstand both manmade and natural disasters.

The project would also help reduce the cost for customers that pay for the facility. The rate structure is designed to fund costs for the new facility if the city does not receive the BRIC grant. Meling said the city needs to start construction of the site, regardless of whether or not they receive the grant.

The facility is expected to break ground as early as winter of 2022, and construction should start by the spring of 2023.