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Largest pour to date happening on St. Mary repairs


Last updated 9/1/2020 at 10:59am

Courtesy photo

The site where work is being done on Drop 5 of the St. Mary Diversion and Conveyance Works is seen from overhead.

Workers continued to pour concrete last week on Drop 5 of the St.Mary Diversion and Conveyance Works, the drop which collapsed in May near the end of the 29-mile system of dams, dikes, canals, gigantic metal siphons and concrete drop structures that transfers water to the Milk River. 

   "It will be the largest pour to date, of approximately 160 yards on the bottom wall segment," Milk River Joint Board of Control Project Manager Jennifer Patrick said. 

    It has been 16 weeks since the catastrophic failure, she said, and they are continuing to stay on target for the end of September or first part of October for pour completion.

The diversion has been shut down since the drop collapsed May 17.

Patrick said they are pushing hard to see the structures run this year.

  At the time of the drop's collapse, Fresno and Nelson reservoirs, part of the Milk River Project that uses water from the diversion, were at very high levels, but have been drawn down for irrigation use.

Fresno and Nelson reservoirs had above-average storage levels and were used to provide continued irrigation deliveries up to last month.

Fresno Reservoir's webpage by U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees the Milk River Project, reported this morning that Fresno was 23.4 percent full.

The Nelson Reservoir webpage reported that reservoir is 74.6 percent full.

  The diversion was built more than 100 years ago by the Bureau of Reclamation as part of the irrigation system the Milk River Project, and also is used as a municipal water source by towns including Havre, Chinook and Harlem and provides recreation opportunities.

It takes water from Sherburne Dam on Swift Current Creek on the edge of Glacier National Park through 29 miles of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation into the North Fork of the Milk River, which then runs into Canada before coming back into Montana.

Patrick said the work has been going well.

"The crews, concrete plant operators, truck drivers, engineering team, tribal offices, Border and Customs agents and everyone in the associated offices helping to support these efforts have been great," she said. "Personally, I cannot thank everyone enough for making my job easier.

"The continued assistance and collaboration of the project to keep it on track has been great, I can only hope it continues a little longer," she added. 

After fixing Drop 2 and 5 and Drop 1 is shored up, the next step is to work on the diversion dam, although no funding is set for that at the moment.

Sens. Jon Tester, D-Mont., Steve Daines R-Mont., and Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., are trying to shift the funding for the system from about 75 percent provided by the users and 25 percent by the federal government so the federal government picks up about 75 percent of the cost of operation and maintenance.

The work being done now was declared an emergency project, so the federal government will pick up the first 35 percent with the remainder split between the users and the federal government, about 75/25. The total cost is estimated at about $8 million.


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