The Senate on Wednesday authorized $140 million for repair of the aging St. Mary Canal water diversion system along Montana's Hi-Line. Many parts of the system are beginning to crumble because of age, and local water users have been lobbying the agency to help pay for needed repairs. Congress will still have to appropriate the money in a spending bill. But the authorization, included as a part of a wideranging water projects bill, is a first step in securing the funds. "We're very excited about this crucial step in finding a solution for the aging St. Mary Diversion and a supply of safe reliable water for the Hi-Line of Montana," said Larry Mires, Executive Director of the St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group. "We have to have this authorization before we can move forward." Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., included the funding in the bill. He said the money is "critical to jobs and the economy all along the Hi-Line." The diversion system was built by the Bureau of Reclamation in the early 1900s to transfer water from the St. Mary River to the Milk River through a 30-mile-long series of canals and siphons. Thousands of people get their water from the system, and it provides irrigation for about 150,000 acres of farmland. The House did not include the St. Mary money in its version of the legislation. A House-Senate committee will reconcile the two bills.