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Billings irrigation ditch remains closed

Posted at 4:14 PM, Jun 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 00:10:36-04

The Billings Bench Water Association canal, the largest of seven irrigation ditches that run through Billings, remained nearly empty Tuesday as repairs are made to a liner and the city investigates cracks found in the hillside below the ditch.

The canal stretches from Laurel to Shepherd. Some 1,200 users depend on it for irrigation for yards, gardens, and farms.

A Facebook post on Billings Bench water’s page says, “This was not a lack of maintenance on our part; vandalism of the liner caused this shut off. Your patience is greatly appreciated.”

Gary Davis, the president of the board of directors of the Billings Water Association, says that crews are repairing a liner that appears to have been vandalized with several holes, but that is just one of the problems.

The city of Billings has hired a geotechnical firm to investigate after BBWA officials discovered cracks and possible earth movement in the hillside below the ditch between North 14th Street and North 15th where the ditch goes under a tunnel.

That’s in the same area where some houses suffered foundation damage from leaking water two years ago.

City administrator Chris Kukulski says the city is trying to determine the cause, what to do about and a strategy to minimize risk of failure.

Kulkulski says the city will be sending out a press release on the situation Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, officials with the Billings Bench Water Association are hopeful that the water will be flowing again by Wednesday or Thursday.