Public meetings scheduled to gain input on proposal to rehabilitate and modernize the St. Mary Canal and associated infrastructure by the Milk River Joint Board of Control (MRJBOC) in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
The Milk River Joint Board of Control (MRJBOC), in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), proposes to rehabilitate and modernize the St. Mary Canal and associated infrastructure along its existing alignment to improve agricultural water management. The project may include lining and/or reshaping select sections of the St. Mary Canal, stabilizing slide areas, and modernizing existing siphons, drop structures, wasteways, and underdrains. These measures would improve water delivery reliability, restore historic flows in the St. Mary’s Canal, and mitigate the risk of infrastructure failure.
The proposed project is regionally significant. Water for Reclamation’s Milk River Project is diverted from the St. Mary River and conveyed through the St. Mary Canal to the North Fork Milk River. The Milk River Project supplies water to approximately 120,000 acres, including eight irrigation districts, the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, numerous private irrigators, several municipalities, and the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. Agriculture is an essential part of the north-central Montana economy, and agricultural production depends on the structural integrity of the St. Mary Canal and associated infrastructure. Water diverted from the St. Mary River and conveyed to the North Fork Milk River through the St. Mary Canal comprises a range of 70–95 percent of the total flow in the Milk River, as measured in Havre, Montana, from May through September, depending upon whether it was a dry or average year for precipitation. Correspondingly, water conveyed through the St. Mary Canal comprises over half of the Milk River Project’s water supply in an average year.
The project is sponsored by the MRJBOC, with funding and technical support from NRCS in Montana. Reclamation has been identified as a cooperating agency. It is anticipated the Blackfeet Nation will fulfill responsibilities typically associated with the role of a participating agency. Farmers Conservation Alliance and HDR are assisting with the planning process as contractors.
Members of the public are invited to provide input to help guide planning efforts during three in-person scoping meetings. Meeting details are as follows:
Babb Public Meeting*
July 13, 2023
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Hooks Hideaway Motel
291 Camp Nine Rd., Babb, MT 59411
*Babb Public Meeting: Lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. prior to the meeting start time at noon. An RSVP is requested if joining for lunch at firstname.lastname@example.org or (541) 716-6085.
Havre Public Meeting
July 18, 2023
11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Best Western Plus Havre Inn & Suites
1425 U.S. Rte 2, Havre, MT 59501
Malta Public Meeting
July 18, 2023
4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Great Northern Hotel
2 S 1st Street E, Malta, MT 59538
Participants will have an opportunity to learn more about the proposed infrastructure improvements and submit their comments, ideas, and concerns. A recorded presentation will be uploaded to www.milkriverproject.com/projects/watershed.
Public comments may be submitted from June 21, 2023, through August 7, 2023. Comments may be emailed to email@example.com, submitted online at www.milkriverproject.com/projects/watershed, left as a voice message at (406) 587-6712, or mailed to: USDA NRCS, Alyssa Fellow, Environmental Compliance Specialist, 10 East Babcock Street, Room 443, Bozeman, MT 59715.
Following the public scoping period, project partners will develop a draft Watershed Plan - Environmental Impact Statement. The public will have an opportunity to review the draft plan and provide additional input.
If a Record of Decision is reached and the Final Watershed Plan-EIS is authorized, the MRJBOC would be able to apply for funding to construct infrastructure improvements through NRCS’s Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention program, authorized by Public Law 83-566. Through this program, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to local organizations (project sponsors) for planning and carrying out watershed projects for the purpose of watershed protection, flood prevention, agricultural water management, erosion and sediment control, water supply, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat enhancement. Additional information is available online at www.milkriverproject.com/projects/watershed or the NRCS Montana web page at nrcs.usda.gov/montana.
The meeting locations are accessible to persons with disabilities. A request for an interpreter for the hearing impaired or for other accommodations for persons with disabilities should be made at least 48 hours before the meeting to Preston Brown at (541) 716-6085 or firstname.lastname@example.org.