Billings and Ditch Officials Monitor BBWA Canal Near Rims | Local News
Billings and the BBWA ditch managers know there’s no way to stop gravity, so the best option is to find a way to work with it.
Billings Public Works employees have installed sensors to monitor in real time the movement of the hill above the Billings Bench Water Association Irrigation Canal as it passes under the Rims and flows east toward Heights.
“It’s all moving,” said BBWA board member and former president Gary Davis of the hill.
The dirt hill along this part of the Rims north of the city center is part of a prehistoric landslide that is still sliding, pushed by gravity so slowly that it is almost imperceptible.
However, over the past few weeks, it’s been noticeable enough that the city has decided to monitor it with real-time sensors, a change from sensors that only reported a few times a day.
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“We’re doing a bit more robust monitoring than expected,” Public Works Director Debi Meling said.
Over the next week, his department will issue a request for proposals from technicians who can give the city qualified options on what it can do to better stabilize the landslide.
With heavy rain this year, city and ditch officials were watching the hill closely for movement. Geotechnical experts had been monitoring the hill above the irrigation ditch for a few weeks after the city noticed movement.
In the end, the amount of rain that fell was less than expected and not enough to cause serious concern. Still, the BBWA reduced channel throughput over the weekend to be on the safe side, Davis said.
The hill the city is monitoring sits above the moat and about six blocks west of the hill the city worked to stabilize last summer. This stretch of land above and below the moat is a city park and is closely monitored by the city and the BBWA.
The confluence of the city park, the century-old BBWA irrigation ditch, and the slow-moving glacial slope creates complicated issues for city and ditch officials.
Town and ditch officials have had regular conversations this spring, and town staff plan to hold a special city council meeting with the BBWA later this summer to talk about the hill and the irrigation canal that runs along it. crosses.
The BBWA Canal has been in place since the early 1900s and still serves agriculture east of Billings. The ditch supplies water to farmers and ranchers in eastern Yellowstone County, four golf courses in Billings, and fills Lake Elmo.
The implications of a breach in a canal are obvious to both the city and the BBWA. If the ditch gave way, it would remove the hill below and could flood hundreds of homes and buildings in the Burnstead Drive area north of Billings as water returned to the Yellowstone River.
The whole area is changing, and efforts to secure sections of the hill can feel like technicians are attaching a smaller landslide to a larger one, Davis said.
“It’s nature, it’s gravity,” he said. “We’re just trying to exist on a moving hill. That’s part of the business in this business.”