The Roles of Each Part of the International St. Mary and Milk Rivers Study Board

The International St. Mary and Milk Rivers Study is led by a study board and consists of several advisory groups and technical working groups that will help the board formulate its final recommendations. Each of these groups is responsible for a specific part of the study’s function, as described below.

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Study Board

The International St. Mary and Milk Rivers Study Board is responsible for overseeing all study activities to ensure that its work achieves the goals of the study per the directive from the two governments. The board will consider the findings of its technical working groups, as well as input from its advisory groups and the Government Forum, and make recommendations to the IJC on non-structural options, including administrative procedural changes and structural options that could potentially improve the access to apportioned waters by each country. The board consists of three Canadian and three US members appointed by the IJC, with two of these members designated as board co-chairs. Additionally, two alternate co-chairs are appointed to fill in for the co-chairs when they are unavailable. The board’s decisions must be made by consensus. Final recommendations are due to the IJC by June 13, 2025.

The board is supported by two study managers, one from Canada and one from the United States, who are responsible for the effective management of the study board’s workplan, as overseen by the study board, and for general administrative and financial/contractual tasks. They attend all board meetings and provide logistical and management support to the board.

Board Members

Canada United States
Dr. Al Pietroniro (co-chair) John Kilpatrick (co-chair)
Dr. Dena McMartin Sue Lowry
Laurie Tollefson Mark Anderson
Malcolm Conly (alt. co-chair) Joanna Thamke (alt. co-chair)

Study Managers

Canada United States
Beau Hawkings Joshua Valder

International Joint Commission

The IJC was responsible for issuing the study directive, and appoints members to the study board, Government Forum and the advisory groups to the study. Over the course of the St. Mary and Milk Rivers study, the IJC will review the study board’s findings and communications, and will issue final recommendations in 2025 at the study’s conclusion.

Communications Committee

The Communications Committee consists of two board members, the study board managers, IJC communications staff from both Canada and the United States, contracted technical writers and facilitators, and the co-chairs of the Public Advisory Group and Indigenous Advisory Group. The committee’s duty is to lead the board’s outreach and engagement activities in accordance with the IJC’s policies and guidance. As a part of its duties, the Communications Committee is responsible for creating communications products, identifying outreach opportunities and planning public engagement activities for the study.

Indigenous Advisory Group

The Indigenous Advisory Group brings together citizens of the Tribes, First Nations and Métis Nation that have an interest in the study and contributing to its recommendations. Its duties include providing feedback to the study board on its work and working with the Communications Committee on the development and implementation of the study board’s Indigenous Outreach Plan. More broadly, it brings views from Indigenous communities to the study board and helps bring its findings back to those communities.

Group Members

Public Advisory Group

The Public Advisory Group consists of equal members from Canada and the United States who represent key interests and geographic regions within the St. Mary-Milk Rivers basins. Its duties include providing feedback to the study board on its work and working with the Communications Committee on the development and implementation of the study board’s Public Outreach Plan.  More broadly, it serves as a conduit for providing local knowledge, viewpoints and data to the study board, while sharing the study board’s messaging and findings with the communities its members hail from.

Groups Represented

Association Country
City of Havre Public Works Department United States
Milk River Watershed Alliance United States
Milk River Board of Control United States
Blaine County Conservation District United States
Montana State University-Extension United States
Montana Walleye Unlimited United States
Milk River Water Users Association Canada
Rural Municipalities of Alberta Canada
Milk River Watershed Council of Canada Canada
Alberta Irrigation Districts Association Canada
Oldman Watershed Council Canada
Saskatchewan Irrigation Projects Association Canada

Government Forum

The Government Forum consists of members from federal, provincial, state and Indigenous governments that have a role in permitting or apportioning water in the basin, and/or operate, own or accommodate infrastructure directly related to storing or conveying the water from the two rivers. These members are appointed by the IJC and give government experts an opportunity to receive and disseminate study-related information, provide advice and feedback to the study board, and to share ideas, concerns and other thoughts. Government entities represented (in alphabetical order):

US Forum Members
Government entity Representative
Amskapi Piikani (Blackfeet Nation) Water Resource Director
Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Resource Director
Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Administrator of the Water Resources Division
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Area Manager, Montana Area Office
Canada Forum Members
Government entity Representative
Alberta Ministry of Environment and Parks Executive Director of Environmental Knowledge and Prediction
Environment and Climate Change Canada Acting Executive Director for ECCC’s National Hydrological Services
Kainai Nation (Blood Tribe) Consultation Coordinator, Tribal Government and External Affairs
Saskatchewan Water Security Agency Director of Hydrology and Groundwater Services

Special Liaisons

The special liaisons were appointed by the IJC, and each of them have unique experience working in government in Canada and the United States, respectively. They act as the primary link between the study board and the IJC with the Government Forum to ensure that Government Forum members are provided with regular updates on the study board’s work. The Government Forum members will then have a collegial and collaborative environment to discuss information and their concerns, which the special liaisons can then bring forward to the study board and IJC. As such, the special liaisons regularly attend study board meetings to ensure information moves between the study board and the Government Forum smoothly and effectively.

Canada United States
Dr. Frederick Wrona Mr. John Tubbs

Options Formulation and Evaluation Group

The Options Formulation and Evaluation Group consists of the two study alternate co-chairs and two technical leads, one from Canada and one from the United States. It is tasked with providing technical guidance and support to the study board and coordinating the work of the Technical Working Groups to ensure the study board is provided with the information needed to formulate and evaluate technical options and tools presented by the Technical Working Groups. The group’s role is crucial to the study, as it is responsible for analyzing and synthesizing information to develop the full suite of options and potential options for improving water apportionment and management.

Technical Working Groups

The Technical Working Groups are small teams assigned technical projects from the Options Formulation and Evaluation Group to fulfil the study board’s tasks. Initial working groups cover the following six areas.

Climate and Hydrology

Creates the foundation for hydrologic modeling and assesses and simulates the watershed’s streamflow using historical data and climate change scenarios. The results from this TWG’s work will be used by other TWGs as they analyze potential impacts on aquatic ecosystems and socio-economic metrics.

Water Management Modelling

Identifies and refines water management models of the St. Mary and Milk River systems to evaluate how different structural and non-structural options perform under different climate conditions. In conjunction with the findings from other TWGs, this group can assess how these different options may impact socio-economic factors and aquatic ecosystems.

Socio-Economic Systems Analysis

Conducts research into the social and economic systems within the St. Mary and Milk River watersheds, which can be used to analyze the effectiveness of different structural and non-structural options. As part of this TWGs work, it will analyze the social and economic consequences of these different water management scenarios within the system using historical data, current land and water usage, resource usage and protections, and economic assessments.

Infrastructure Options

Develops recommendations on structural options for the study board to consider. This TWGs work is based on both public engagement and fact-based analysis, which includes how feasible the engineering and maintenance for these structures would be. Potential structural options include improving the existing St. Mary Canal and water storage systems already in the system, as well as building new storage and conveyance systems.

Water Apportionment and Administrative Options

Develops water apportionment and water management administrative options, which may include proposing the initial performance indicators other TWGs may use for hydrologic and water management purposes.

Aquatic Ecosystems

Evaluates the current state and the potential effects of changes to water availability within the basins in regard to aquatic ecosystems. This TWG will utilize existing biological research in the basin, and may conduct field assessments to fill in knowledge gaps as they are identified. Its findings will provide the study with an assessment of aquatic ecosystem health, possible changes in the communities of aquatic life forms under different water management scenarios, and how these may affect the food web – in effect, this TWG will articulate the potential ecological consequences of the different management scenarios.

All TWG members are independent of any nation or agency affiliation and will operate based on information and assignments given to them by the study board through the Options Formulation and Evaluation Group.

Independent Review Group

The Independent Review Group was established by the IJC to carry out independent technical reviews of study materials. The IJC, in consultation with the study board, selects its members and oversees its communications to ensure its independence from the study board, with members made up entirely of external experts. These experts are responsible for independently and critically reviewing interim products from the study board and its Technical Working Groups, including the study board’s final report and recommendations.