Tim Leeds Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
The group working to find ways to rebuild the 100-year-old system that supplies much of the water in the Milk River will meet in Havre Tuesday, July 14. One of the main issues planned to be di scus sed at the St . Mar y Rehabilitation Working Group meeting is the formation of a regional authority which could issue bonds to help fund rebui lding the St . Mar y Diversion, a 29-mile long system of dams, canals, dikes and siphons that diverts water from the St. Mary River to the Milk River. The diversion, which the federal Bureau of Reclamation was authorized to build in 1903, provides about half of the water in the Milk River in a normal year. In drought years, the diversion supplies as much as 90 percent of the water in the river, used for irrigation, recreation and municipal water for Havre, Chinook and Harlem. Before the diversion was built, the Milk River often dried up by the fall. The system, originally authorized to supply water for irrigators in the Milk River valley, has been patched and repaired for decades. Historically, the operation, maintenance and repairs of the system has been paid by its users, primarily irrigators, as required by its initial authorization. In the state Legislature this year, Sen. Ken “Kim” Hansen, D-Harlem, sponsored legislation that would allow the creation of regional authorities to manage water resources, including issuing bonds to pay for construction or repairs of water systems. The legislation passed with strong support in both houses. At the meeting Tuesday, Dan Clark, director of Montana State University’s Montana Center for Local Government, who has been presenting information to the working group about creation of a regional resource authority, will continue that presentation. The push to find a way to completely rehabilitate the diversion began early in this decade, with the St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group, the Milk River Joint Board of Control, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources pushing since 2003 to find a solution to rebuilding the system without bankrupting its users. The sixteen-member working group, co-chaired by Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, comprises representatives of irrigated agriculture, the Blackfeet and Ft. Belknap Tribes, municipal water users, local economic development organizations and recreation groups. The meeting is open to the public, with a portion of the meeting set for collecting public comment. The meeting will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Duck Inn in Havre Tuesday. For more information, people can contact Larry Mires, executive director of the working group, at (406) 263-8402 or by mail at Two Rivers Economic Growth, Inc., 74 4th St N., Glasgow, MT 59230, e-mail at smrwg@ nemont.net, or Paul Azevedo of the state Department of Natural Re s ourc e s and Conservation at (406) 444- 6635.