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Environment & Science

Milk River Project Structure Collapses Along St. Mary Canal

Piece of the collapsed structure
Mike Wendland
/
Hill County
Drop Five on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Milk River Project St. Mary Canal collapsed, dropping the flow of water along The Hi-Line.";

Part of a Montana Hi-Line water system collapsed over the weekend and any delay in its repair will affect water usage by tribes, municipalities and irrigators.

It was Sunday afternoon when Drop Five on the Bureau of Reclamation’s Milk River Project St. Mary Canal collapsed, dropping the flow of water along The Hi-Line. This concrete drop structure north of Cut Bank is one of five that uses gravity and siphons to move water along the St. Mary Canal to the North Milk River.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says this system is the primary water source for thousands of irrigation users, the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap Reservations and several municipalities including Havre, Chinook and Harlem.

Mike Wendland is a Hill County Commissioner. He says right now Havre, which draws its water from the Milk River Project, is in pretty good shape thanks to the Fresno Reservoir.

"Right now there is pretty good storage in it. So that would kind of alleviate the concern for the municipal water supply for the near future," Wendland says.

Montana’s Congressman Greg Gianforte and Senator Steve Daines have written to President Donald Trump and to the Bureau of Reclamation urging swift action to repair the drop structure and get water flowing again. Daines says the estimated cost to fix the damage is $5 million.

The Milk River Project is over 100 years old and has been the focus for decades of past and present members of Montana’s Congressional delegation trying to secure federal funding for repair of the aging system.