Kerr Dam Management History & Lakers Actions

1965

Memorandum of Understanding on Lake Levels

The Flathead Lakers were a party to amending the Memorandum of Understanding between Montana Power Company and the Army Corps of Engineers to change operational procedures at Kerr Dam, which included setting targets for achieving “full pool” summer lake levels. The targets set were 1) reaching the level of 2890 feet (elevation) by May 30, and 2) reaching 2893 feet by June 15. In practice, the lake is kept two to three inches below 2893 so that the runoff from heavy storms can be absorbed without the lake level rising above 2893, which would be a violation of the license (and cause flooding).

1990 – 1997

Kerr Dam Relicensing

The Flathead Lakers intervened in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s proceeding on the Mitigation and Management Plan for Kerr Dam (part of the 50-year relicensing of the dam). We were successful in persuading the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on the effects of Kerr Dam and its operations. The EIS:

  1. provided FERC and the Department of Interior with the information needed to make informed decisions on operational options,
  2. required FERC to identify and assess a full range of alternatives to minimize the adverse effects of dam operation; and
  3. allowed the public to participate in a decision of vital concern to the public.

The Lakers participated in the EIS process, commenting on the draft and the conditions imposed by the Department of Interior pursuant to Section 4(e) of the Federal Power Act. The result was a better mitigation and management plan than the one Montana Power Company (the dam's owner and operator at that time) had developed behind closed doors.

Many of the Lakers’ goals in intervening were achieved, including an open and public relicensing process. The FERC order required:

2002

Drought Management Plan Development

The Flathead Lakers were involved in the process of developing a Drought Management Plan (DMP). A DMP, required by the new Kerr Dam license, will determine how lake levels and river flows are managed during a serious drought. The DMP is intended to give direction to Kerr Dam management when, due to drought conditions, it is not possible to meet both the requirements in the license for specific lake levels and for river flows below the dam

We commented on the PPL Montana DMP proposal and made recommendations for improvement, including giving more attention to maintaining summer recreational lake levels during a drought by better coordination with Hungry Horse Dam operation and altering the timing of flows released from Hungry Horse Dam for downstream salmon recovery projects in the Columbia River. We urged the Department of Interior and FERC to require a thorough review of options and alternatives before approving a plan. We also submitted scoping comments for the DMP EIS process.

2006

Draft Drought Management Plan Evironmental Impact Statement

The Flathead Lakers submitted comments on the DMP Draft EIS and participated in public hearings. We continued to ask for consideration of the cumulative impacts of the alternatives proposed, including impacts on summer recreation and winter damage to docks, as well as requesting an analysis of the role water stored at Hungry Horse Reservoir could play in maintaining summer recreation lake levels in Flathead Lake.

2010

Final Drought Mangagement Plan Environmental Impact Statement

The Final EIS for the Drought Management Plan was released. As part of its analysis in preparing the Final EIS, the Department of Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted additional assessments of flood risks, effect on docks, and statistical analyses to confirm the accuracy and reliability of forecasting indices. Modifications to the draft preferred alternative include requiring an adaptive management plan, coordination with Hungry Horse Dam operations, a plan for requesting deviations from stream flow requirements below Kerr Dam during droughts, and a requirement for updating drought indicators after five years.

Although we would prefer to see more specific language in the DMP preferred alternative to give lakeshore property owners and recreators information about the specific conditions that would lead to reductions in the lake level (to 2892.2 feet) during droughts so they can better plan for it, we believe the DMP that is finally adopted will be a much improved plan due to our comments, recommendations and participation.

The new plan will require:


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