Today, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton approved Montana Governor Greg Gianforte's request for federal assistance to address the failure of the St. Mary siphons.

Expressing his gratitude, Governor Gianforte stated, “I’m grateful for this much-needed federal assistance to repair the St. Mary and Halls Coulee siphons. 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 catastrophic failure of the St. Mary siphons on June 17 raised concerns about potential impacts on drinking water for 14,000 Montanans and irrigation for over 18,000 water users. The disruption could significantly affect over 121,000 acres of irrigable land.

Jennifer Patrick, project manager for the Milk River Joint Board of Control, thanked the State of Montana for its collaborative efforts with local officials to secure federal funds. “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,” she said.

In late June, Governor Gianforte sent a letter to Commissioner Touton and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, urging the federal government to authorize funds under existing federal law for replacing the siphons. He highlighted that the Montana Legislature had previously authorized $32 million in financial assistance for this purpose.

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Federal law permits the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation to allocate funds for such repairs, a provision previously exercised in response to the Drop 5 failure in 2020.

The emergency declaration follows a site visit by Bureau of Reclamation officials along with state and local representatives to the St. Mary siphon failure near Babb, Montana.

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Gallery Credit: Dennis Bragg