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Feds approve funding for repairs of St. Mary siphons

'Catastrophic failure' of siphon at St. Mary Canal
Posted at 4:58 AM, Jul 10, 2024

HELENA — The Bureau of Reclamation has approved Montana's request for federal assistance for the St. Mary siphon failure.

On June 17, the St. Mary siphons catastrophically failed.

Without the siphons, water from the Saint Mary River won't reach the Milk River Project, a critical piece of infrastructure that provides water to farms and communities across the Hi-Line.

According to state officials, the failure impacted around 14,000 Montanans and irrigation for over 18,000 water users. The lack of water provided by the St. Mary Canal could significantly impact over 121,000 acres of irrigable land.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it authorized an emergency extraordinary maintenance determination and is working with partners to identify the next steps that are cost-effective and ensure a timely solution.

“I’m grateful for this much needed federal assistance to repair the St. Mary and Halls Coulee siphons,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said in a press release. “The State of Montana stands ready to assist local and federal officials in responding to the widespread effects the failure will have on water users and irrigators.”

The Bureau of Reclamation and several other project partners will share the cost of totally replacing the siphons, which is estimated at around $70 million. Reclamation has secured initial federal funding to begin site remediation activities, and the state of Montana made available approximately $32 million for the Milk River Joint Board of Control to begin work on the siphon replacement.

The Montana legislature had previously authorized the $32 million in financial assistance to repair the siphons.

“I wish to thank the State of Montana for working with local officials to secure these federal funds to repair the St. Mary Canal,” said Jennifer Patrick, project manager for the Milk River Joint Board of Control. “Today’s announcement is a testament to what state and local coordination can look like. When we speak in one voice, it is much easier to get things done."