The Blaine County Journal News-Opinion - We've Got The County Covered

Drop 5 Nearing Completion, Water Expected to be Flowing Soon

 

September 30, 2020

It's been 19 weeks since the catastrophic Drop 5 failure on the Milk River Diversion. Work is nearly done on the Drop 5 repairs and the final work is being completed at the beginning of the diversion. Pictures above is the Drop 1 site. "Reclamation did a project like this on Drop 3 and it has held up very well. Drop 1 walls should be poured towards the end of next week and then the top of the walls will be our last pour maybe on the 7th or 8th (of October). At this point we can turn on the water," stated Project Manager, Jennifer Patric.

After the complete failure of Drop 5 this past May, repairs have been done in earnest to get water flowing back to those that rely on the St. Mary's diversion for essential operations. In the 19 weeks since crews have been working diligently to get the job done. Work on Drop 2 and Drop 1 was done in this time as well and was previously scheduled prior to the Drop 5 failure. The diversion is essential to irrigators downstream of Fresno Reservoirs as well as more than 18,000 people in the Havre, Chinook and Harlem communities.

Milk River Irrigation Project Joint Board of Control Project Manager Jennifer Patrick provided an update of work being done and is amazed by the efforts of the work crews, "We are almost through week 19 since the failure and there may be an end in sight! I have to say I am pretty proud of the group of guys we have up there. I was onsite a couple days this last week and we were "blessed" with wind, rain, sun, sleet, mini dust storms and they just continued to push forward trying to meet our deadline."

This past Friday, the biggest pour to date, nearly 200 yards was successfully completed despite wind gust over 60 mph while setting forms, "I was a little worried yesterday as we had an emergency wind advisory in the area and those walls are high," stated Patrick. "Concrete break tests are coming in great and we are closing in on completion of the Drop 5 structure. Currently, the forecast for next week looks good so we will plan to pour W3 and W4 next week and the cutoffs the following."

While work is being completed on Drop 5 other work is being done as well, "Drop 2 continues with site grading and rip rap placement but that structure is 100% complete. A lot of the dirt work remains, but we are prioritizing the south sides of both structures first because once we start running water, we cannot access them.

Conversations with a company to hydroseed the south side this year are taking place, but that is on the low side of our priority list.

We all want to see water this year in the structures and we can address the final touches after shutoff or next spring," said Patrick.

With all the excitement going on Patrick added that work had been done on Drop 1 as well, "The plan is to do an overlay on the walls and floors because the structure is 100-years old and we would like to avoid this scenario in the future. The floor was poured on Wednesday and today Friday) they started chipping out any loose pieces of concrete on the back walls before starting to form the walls."

This type of work has been done previously, "Reclamation did a project like this on Drop 3 and it has held up very well. Drop 1 walls should be poured towards the end of next week and then the top of the walls will be our last pour maybe on the 7th or 8th (Of October). At this point we can turn on the water," stated Patrick.

The biggest pour to date was done on Drop 5 last week as just under 200 yards of wall was poured. Forms were put up Thursday despite high wind warnings that topped out at over 65 mph. Concrete as poured Friday and early test results have been very promising.

In addition, other crews have completed work as well, "The Marias-Milk River/St. Mary crews have poured a new apron at the siphon and completed other maintenance while we have been shut down. Last week, they built and installed fish screens at the Diversion Dam. These screens will hopefully aid in preventing the entrainment of adult bull trout to the system. We have been working with Fish and Wildlife Services and a late season fish salvage has been scheduled at canal shutoff, first of November. The St. Mary crew will start getting things ready next week for turning the system back on," concluded Patrick.

Once water begins to be released from Lake Sherburne into the St. Mary River it can take eight to ten days to reach Fresno Reservoir. There is a CLOSED Ribbon Cutting ceremony scheduled for October 15 which will hopefully signal the return to operation for the St. Mary's Diversion and provide a big relief to those folks that rely on the water provided by the project.

 
 

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