Montana Power Delays Work on Holter Dam
MPC Heeds Trout Unlimited Call to Consider Drawdown Damage to Fish
8/31/1999 — — Last Friday, Montana Power Company postponed its plans to drain the Holter Reservoir in response to a motion to intervene and protest filed by Trout Unlimited with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). “Considering that … external intervention causing further delay is a distinct possibility.. the company (MPC), is therefore, notifying the FERC that the Holter reservoir drawdown for flashboard replacement is being deferred until next year,” wrote MPC of its decision to delay on August 27, 1999. TU requested the federal agency put a hold on Montana Power Company’s (MPC) plans to lower Montana’s Holter Reservoir by 16 feet for a month-long period, beginning September 20th. Holter Dam is located on the Missouri River above Great Falls and forms the tailwater of one of the nation’s most acclaimed wild trout fisheries.
“This is a victory for the Missouri River and Holter Reservoir trout populations – as well as its neighbors,” proclaimed Bruce Farling, Executive Director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “MPC’s decision to delay the drawdown in light of Trout Unlimited’s intervention was the responsible thing to do. Hopefully, MPC will use this time to explore other engineering options which will allow them to make routine maintenance repairs to the reservoir without devastating the fish populations in the process. Part of being a good neighbor is considering others and not just your own bottom line.”
TU’s intervention was the result of MPC’s decision to ignore warnings from anglers and from Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks that the drawdown could severely harm fish in the reservoir and in the Missouri River above and below the reservoir. Prior to TU’s intervention, MPC insisted the drawdown was necessary to repair flashboards on the dam. However, upon further pressing, MPC admits the action is not necessitated by an emergency but is instead a periodic maintenance chore. Trout Unlimited has asked MPC to utilize engineering alternatives, such as using a cofferdam, which could obviate the need for the drawdown while providing MPC crews with a place to work. MPC ignored the suggestions, forcing TU to intervene.
“When the Holter drawdown was first discussed, the sense of urgency conveyed by MPC had Trout Unlimited concerned,” stated TU N. Rockies Regional VP, Kirk Evenson. “Ironically, only three weeks before the proposed startup, we find out the flashboards are not in imminent danger of failure and MPC voluntarily requested FERC halt its review of the process. We hope that MPC will use this time to work with TU and the agencies to devise a plan that uses a cofferdam or other technology which pose far less threats to the fishery.”
In its motion to intervene, TU maintained:
* Drawing down the reservoir threatens wild brown trout in the Missouri River and would have a long-term adverse impact on the popular multi-species fishery of Holter Lake;
* MPC has not demonstrated a drawdown is the only way to get the repair work done;
* MPC is ignoring the recommendations of the professional biologists of Fish, Wildlife & Parks; and
* Current near-drought conditions will multiply the adverse impacts of a drawdown this year.
Trout Unlimited is the world’s largest trout and salmon conservation organization. TU’s members, more than 100,000 strong, are committed to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.