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CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Funding for a massive water pipeline project that would serve Gillette could get a hearing in the Wyoming State Senate this week, Senate President John Hines said.

Hines, R-Gillette, said he expects the Senate to consider Senate File 73, a bill he's sponsoring that would put up $11.2 million to begin planning and engineering work for the pipeline.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday recommended approval of the bill, which would also give Gillette a $5.5 million loan for the project.

This year's funding would cover design and preliminary work on the planned 42-mile pipeline, which officials say would ultimately cost an estimated $226 million.

Hines said the high cost has prompted some discussion among legislators about whether the state can afford to stick with its usual practice of paying two-thirds of the cost of water projects while local governments pay the other one-third.

"Of course, those in Gillette feel like they ought to be treated like everybody else," Hines said. "The difference on this project is just the size of it, that it's such a big project, and so expensive."

Hines said legislators may address the issue of how to divide costs for the Gillette project and other large projects after the current legislative session.

"The way things are going, any big project from now on is going to cost more," Hines said. "It's just the way life is; it's getting more expensive to do any project."

The pipeline would carry water to Gillette from wells north of Moorcroft, in Crook County. Gillette already has one pipeline that carries water from the same area.

Gillette Mayor Duane Evenson has said the new pipeline is necessary because increasing demand for water in the city soon will exceed the available supply.

Evenson has said the city's existing wells and pipeline can deliver about 14.4 million gallons of water a day. The city is forced to draw from its storage when peak demand in the summertime reaches up to 15.5 million gallons.

Evenson has said Gillette's current population of around 31,000 is expected to grow to 50,000 by the year 2035.

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