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'Catastrophic failure' of siphon at St. Mary Canal

'Catastrophic failure' of siphon at St. Mary Canal
'Catastrophic failure' of siphon at St. Mary Canal
Posted at 2:48 PM, Jun 17, 2024

GREAT FALLS — The Milk River Project said on Monday morning (June 17, 2024) that the St. Mary siphon on the St. Mary Canal north of the community of Babb suffered a "catastrophic failure."

It reportedly happened while U.S. Bureau of Reclamation personnel were monitoring a crack.

The agency said that thankfully, no one was hurt, but the damage is extensive.

'Catastrophic failure' of siphon at St. Mary Canal
'Catastrophic failure' of siphon at St. Mary Canal

The canal was shut down prior to the failure, but the hillside and nearby Hook's Hide-Away bar, hotel, and roping arena have all been "significantly impacted" by the water.

The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council posted on Facebook:

THE ST.MARY CANAL/MILK RIVER IN BABB, MT - IS CLOSED TO ALL RIVER ACTIVITIES, NO FLOATING, BOATING/RAFTING, SWIMMING, ETC. FOR THE WEEK OF MONDAY JUNE 17, 2024 TO MONDAY JUNE 24, 2024. FOR YOUR SAFETY, PLEASE STAY OUT OF THE AREA. ROAD CLOSURE TO CAMP 9 ROAD (HOOKS HIDEAWAY) ALL ROADS ARE CLOSED IN THESE AREAS. EMERCENGY PERSONNEL ONLY.

People are asked to stay out of the area as they are still evaluating the extent of the damage.

The Bureau of Reclamation said in a news release that the breach caused local flooding and erosion, with some areas resulting in washout areas estimated to be 30 to 50 feet deep.

Diversions to the canal were 600 cubic feet per second (cfs) at the time of failure; diversions have been stopped, but flows are expected to continue for as long as 24 to 36 hours while the canal drains.

The breach has affected residents and surrounding communities directly or indirectly. Emergency response teams and law enforcement officials are involved in the response efforts.

“Emergency response teams have been deployed to contain and evaluate the damage,” said Ryan Newman, Reclamation’s Montana Area Office Manager. “Water flows were naturally diverted back to the St. Mary River and helped mitigate the potential for additional flooding in the surrounding area.”

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The agency says the flooding has caused property damage in direct proximity to the breach, impacted infrastructure, and may pose risks to public safety.

Roads are closed, and utilities may potentially be disrupted in the affected areas. Traffic cones and caution tape have been placed to limit access to potentially dangerous areas.

From the Bureau of Reclamation website:

The St. Mary Diversion Dam and Canal were completed in 1915 as part of the Milk River Project (Project) in north-central Montana. The dam is located near Babb, MT and approximately 0.75 miles downstream from Lower St. Mary Lake. The existing dam consists of a 198-foot long and 6-foot-high concrete weir and sluiceway. It diverts water from the St. Mary River into the St. Mary Canal through the gated headworks structure for use by the Milk River Project.

We will update you when we get more information.


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