The Alberta government is working to address the impacts to water users resulting from an infrastructure failure in Montana.

On May 17, a concrete drop structure failed on the St. Mary Canal, which is located in northern Montana and owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The canal diverts water from the St. Mary River to the Milk River in Alberta. Permanent repairs to the canal will begin immediately, with completion scheduled for September. Repairs will be paid for by U.S. officials.

“We recognize the severity of the situation and the importance of the Milk River basin to surrounding communities and the local economy,” said Environment and Parks Minister Jason Nixon. “Environment and Parks is supporting Alberta water users and working with our federal and U.S. counterparts to keep water users informed as work to repair the canal progresses.”

Environment and Parks will support Alberta water users in the Milk River basin with an updated water supply outlook. It will also provide updates on infrastructure repairs south of the border, details on allotments and water use by each country, and support for water conservation planning, as necessary.

“I want to assure my constituents in Taber-Warner that we are taking the situation along the Milk River very seriously,” said Grant Hunter, the member of legislative assembly for Taber-Warner. “I will continue to meet with the local mayors, reeves and irrigators over the coming weeks and months as this situation continues to evolve.”

With no canal in place, water licence holders in Alberta should be prepared for only natural flows on the Milk River throughout the summer and should proactively explore options for water conservation.

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Recreational users will also be impacted. Without diverted water via the St. Mary Canal, Milk River water levels will likely be too low this summer for activities like canoeing or kayaking.

No impacts to drinking water or household use are expected. The province provided the Town of Milk River with funding to increase water storage. The town’s current stored water supply would support four months of water use in the event the town was unable to draw any more water from the river.

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