Celebrating the Drop 5 Ribbon Cutting

The May 2020 failure of the drop 5 structure in the St. Mary Unit of Montana’s Milk River Project was a catastrophic event. “To me, it looked like a bomb had been placed under the middle section of the drop structure,” said Milk River Joint Board of Control (MRJBOC) Program Manager Jennifer Patrick. But less than 5 months later, on October 15, 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. 

In this month’s Irrigation Leader, we bring you the story of the impressive collaboration that enabled this quick turnaround. Our cover story features Jennifer Patrick and Marko Manoukian, the local chairperson for the St. Mary Rehabilitation Working Group, who 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. 

While the drop 5 failure is a stark reminder of the importance of funding necessary maintenance and repairs for our nation’s water infrastructure, its repair is a perfect example of how collaboration, determination, and hard work can turn catastrophe into triumph. We congratulate all the individuals and entities that were part of this impressive project. 

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 kris.polly@waterstrategies.com.