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Siphon at St. Mary Canal fails

The Milk River Project announced on Monday a “catastrophic failure” of the St. Mary siphon located on the St. Mary Canal, north of Babb. According to reports, the incident occurred while personnel from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation were monitoring a crack in the structure.

Fortunately, no injuries were reported, but the damage is described as extensive. The canal had been shut down preemptively before the failure, yet the sudden breach has significantly impacted the surrounding area, including the hillside and nearby establishments such as Hook’s Hide-Away bar, hotel, and roping arena.

In response to the incident, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council issued a statement via Facebook, declaring the closure of all river activities along the St. Mary Canal/Milk River in Babb from June 17 to June 24, 2024. They also announced road closures affecting Camp 9 Road (Hook’s Hideaway), urging people to avoid the area while damage assessments continue.

The Bureau of Reclamation reported in a press release that the breach resulted in localized flooding and erosion, causing washouts up to 30 to 50 feet deep in certain areas. At the time of failure, water diversions to the canal were operating at 600 cubic feet per second. Although diversions have ceased, residual flows are anticipated for the next 24 to 36 hours as the canal drains naturally.

Ryan Newman, Reclamation’s Montana Area Office Manager, stated that emergency response teams have been deployed to assess and manage the damage. Efforts were made to redirect water flows back to the St. Mary River to minimize additional flooding risks in the vicinity.

The flooding has led to property damage near the breach site, impacting local infrastructure and potentially disrupting utilities. Authorities have closed affected roads and placed traffic cones and caution tape to restrict access to hazardous areas.

The situation remains under evaluation as authorities work to stabilize the affected area and mitigate further risks to public safety and property.

By: Big Sky Headlines staff

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