The Intricacies of the Water World

Water resources agencies operate at the intersection of many legal fields, from water rights to environmental regulations to the everyday operating concerns of municipal entities. That means that being a water lawyer requires experience in and thorough knowledge of many areas of the law. In our cover story this month, water lawyer Larry Martin of Halverson Northwest walks us through the intricacies of his trade. 

We also feature several stories on the reconstruction of the drop 5 structure in the St. Mary Unit of Montana’s Milk River Project. On October 15, 2020, 5 months after its May failure, Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman and Montana’s congressional delegation, among many other stakeholders and supporters, were attending a ribbon cutting celebrating the reconstruction of the drop structure, which is once again helping deliver water to the Milk River to benefit to the farmers, tribal users, and municipalities of Montana’s Hi-Line. Jennifer Patrick, the project manager for the Milk River Joint Board of Control, and Marko Manoukian, the local chairperson for the St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group, give us an inside view of how local stakeholders responded to the disaster and supported the reconstruction. We also feature conversations with Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester and Congressman Greg Gianforte, who was recently elected the next governor of Montana, all three of whom supported the drop 5 reconstruction and delivered remarks at the ribbon cutting. We also speak with Steve Davies, the manager of Reclamation’s Montana area office. 

Also in this issue, we speak with Mike Miller of central Washington’s Greater Wenatchee Irrigation District about the district’s new Watertronics pump; hear from Jan Boling about how the Madera Irrigation District in California’s Central Valley is replacing its old turnout meters with new technology; and speak with George Pappas of insurance company Allied Public Risk about the WaterPlus program, which provides property and liability insurance to about 3,000 water-related entities around the nation. 

Technology, law, coordination, design, and risk management: These are just some of the topics that a water manager must know how to deal with. The stories in this issue of Irrigation Leader will show you the skill with which our nation’s water resources professionals handle the intricacies of the water world. 

Kris Polly is the editor-in-chief of Irrigation Leader magazine and the president of Water Strategies LLC, a government relations firm he began in February 2009 for the purpose of representing and guiding water, power, and agricultural entities in their dealings with Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, and other federal government agencies. He may be contacted at