The Kinsey Irrigation Company, located in Custer County, Montana, provides water to farming across 6,640 acres of land, supporting 80 families. The company was recently informed that its existing power contract with the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program will not be eligible for renewal when it expires. This casts the future of the company in question, as alternate power sources would cost 6½–20 times as much as its current supply. In this interview, Doug Martin, the project coordinator for the Kinsey Irrigation Company’s legislative efforts on the Pick-Sloan issue, lays out for us the company’s current situation and how it could be resolved.
The Sidney Water Users Irrigation District (SWUID), based in Sidney, Montana, serves water to 48 family farms across around 5,000 acres in eastern Montana. Along with its neighboring district, Kinsey Irrigation Company, SWUID is threatened with the loss of affordable project use power (PUP) from the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Program, which was authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1944 and which SWUID has been using for 75 years. In this interview, SWUID President Raymond Bell explains the district’s situation and what actions are needed to preserve its operations and services.
Montana’s Fort Belknap Indian Community (FBIC), which brings together the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes on the Fort Belknap Reservation, is home to the nation’s oldest federal Indian irrigation project, the Fort Belknap Indian Irrigation Project (FBIIP). The FBIC has Indian reserved water rights in the Milk River basin and recognizes the importance of the water resources delivered by the St. Mary diversion. In this interview, FBIC Water Resources Department Administrator Kristal Fox discusses the history of FBIC’s water resources and irrigation and the importance of the Milk River Project.
The St. Mary diversion works, which deliver water from the St. Mary River to the Milk River and provide the water for the Milk River Project’s irrigation supply downstream, are located on the Blackfeet Reservation in northwestern Montana. While the facilities were built on Blackfeet land, largely with Blackfeet labor, the Milk River Project did not provide any water to the Blackfeet Nation until a new compact with the State of Montana was passed in 2016. After the recent failure of drop 5, the Milk River Joint Board of Control (MRJBOC), the Bureau of Reclamation, and other agencies are working closely with the Blackfeet Nation to carry out repairs in…
Mike Murphy has decades of experience in agriculture and has been the executive director of the Montana Water Resources Association (MWRA) for 27 years. MWRA advocates for Montana’s irrigated agriculture on both the state and the federal levels. In this interview, Mr. Murphy tells Irrigation Leader about the association’s top issues, including infrastructure funding and water rights adjudications.
While many Americans from outside Montana may not be familiar with the Milk River Project or the Sidney and Kinsey Irrigation Projects, their importance goes beyond Montana’s borders. The Milk River Project alone provides water to farmers who grow enough food to feed one million people per year. In this interview, Greg Gianforte, the representative of Montana’s at-large congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, tells Irrigation Leader about the importance of Montana’s irrigated agriculture and how he is supporting it in Congress.
Third-generation Montanan Jon Tester has represented Montana in the United States Senate since 2006. His prior experience in agriculture and local and state government means that he has an intimate knowledge of the importance of irrigated agriculture for Montana’s economy. In this interview, Senator Tester tells Irrigation Leader about his legislative work on behalf of Montana irrigators.
Steve Daines was elected to the United States Senate in 2014 after two years as Montana’s at-large representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this interview, Senator Daines tells Irrigation Leader about his advocacy and legislative efforts on behalf of the Milk River Project and the Sidney and Kinsey irrigation projects in eastern Montana.
Montana’s Milk River Project is a Bureau of Reclamation project whose history goes back a century. After the recent catastrophic failure of one of the project’s drop structures, Reclamation has been working closely with the Milk River Joint Board of Control (MRJBOC), the State of Montana, local Native American tribes, and other stakeholders to plan for a permanent repair to the structure. In this interview, Shelby Hagenauer, Reclamation’s deputy commissioner, and Steve Davies, the manager of Reclamation’s Montana area office, tell Irrigation Leader about the role the agency has played in the response to the drop structure failure and the plans for a permanent solution to the problem.
On May 17, a drop structure on the Milk River Project, which conveys water to the Milk River in Montana’s Hi-Line Region, failed catastrophically. The supplemental flows to the Milk River that the project was founded to supply have ceased and will not resume until the structure is repaired. While local reservoirs hold adequate water for limited operations to continue this year, the drop structure failure presages shortages and rationing for local irrigators and municipalities. In this interview, Jennifer Patrick, the program manager of the Milk River Joint Board of Control (MRJBOC), and Marko Manoukian, the Montana State University (MSU) extension agent in Phillips County and the local chairperson for…