Following Failure on St. Mary Canal, Tester Calls on Biden Administration to Provide Immediate Support to Local Community

Senator to Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture: “This is a disaster that requires the immediate and full attention of the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture”

Following a major siphon burst on the Milk River Project near Babb, Montana, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today called on the Biden Administration to provide immediate support for the local community, small businesses, and irrigators. The failure, which caused thousands of gallons of water to flood the surrounding area, has already caused extensive damage to local businesses, and will impact vital irrigation to farmland in the surrounding area.

The timing of this failure could not be worse because hundreds of farmers and ranchers are currently depending on the Milk River Project to irrigate their crops,” Tester wrote in a letter to Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “This is a disaster that requires the immediate and full attention of the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture. I ask that you swiftly work to ensure that the local community and the irrigators have the resources they need to confront the challenges that lay ahead.”

Tester has been Montana’s leading champion for the Milk River Project and water infrastructure projects across the state. Earlier this month, Tester announced that a more than $88 million contract was awarded to Montana-based NW Construction to complete the St. Mary Diversion Dam Replacement project. The contract is part of the up to $100 million Tester secured for the Milk River Project through his bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which he negotiated and helped pass into law. Tester was the only member of Montana’s Congressional delegation to support the legislation.

The first round of funding, $2.5 million, was announced in January and was used for planning and project design in 2022. Tester directly negotiated and wrote the provision of his legislation that provides up to $100 million to rehabilitate the Milk River Project, and in December 2020, he urged Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton to make the St. Mary’s diversion a top priority and get the resources out the door as quickly as possible.

The Milk River Project irrigates over 120,000 acres and provides water to four municipalities, two rural water systems, and two Tribes.

A full list of Montana provisions in Tester’s bipartisan infrastructure law can be found HERE.

You can read the Senator’s letter HERE.