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Montana Ag Network: Water is flowing again into the Milk River after canal repairs

St. Mary canal drop structures being repaired
Posted at 12:16 PM, Oct 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-14 14:16:00-04

BILLINGS — Water is once again flowing into the Milk River after a catastrophic structural failure on May 17, 2020, at the St. Mary Canal northwest of Cut Bank left Montana’s Hi-Line community high and dry.

It’s good news for the Hi-Line residents which depend on the Milk River for its drinking and irrigation water.

Structural repairs to Drop 2 and Drop 5 were recently completed and project managers like Havre’s Jennifer Patrick are excited to have the necessary repairs finished for all water users along Montana’s Hi-Line.

“Well, I don't think anyone else's as excited as we are, myself included and the project managers on this. Today we got word that water just hit Milk River, Alberta” said Patrick. “So, it's a couple of days from Fresno, which is huge. So, we're excited to see that reservoir come up and move on.”

She says the repairs done to Drop 2 and Drop 5 were long overdue.

“Absolutely, and people have been working on the whole system along with the working group for 20 years saying this is going to happen, this is going to happen; and it finally happened,” said Patrick. “So, people are looking at it. There's a lot of other structures up there that are 100 years old that have never been addressed. So, these aren't the only ones.”

She says the Milk River truly is the lifeline of Montana’s Hi-Line.

“It's huge because all of the commodities coming out of this Milk River basin also depend on it” said Patrick. “It goes down to Nashua. So, we're running this 700-mile stretch of river for all of these different entities, the fish, wildlife, everything. When you talk about the Hi-Line, this is the lifeline of the Hi-Line.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at St. Mary’s Drop 5 on Oct. 15 to celebrate the new structures. The ceremony will include remarks from Montana dignitaries plus Brenda Burman, the Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner from Washington, DC.