Energy Keepers Inc., the tribal-owned corporation managing the former Kerr Dam hydroelectric project, reported that Flathead Lake reached full pond on June 13, “just a few days ahead of schedule.”
Travis Togo, chief commercial officer for Energy Keepers, said 2019 has been a challenging year for water management, affected by a below average snowpack in portions of the Flathead River Basin.
“When it is all said and done, the actual January through July runoff volume will probably close out at around 5.3 million acre feet, approximately 82 percent of normal, a dry water year,” Togo said in a news release.
The lower than normal snowpack led Energy Keepers to initiate refilling Flathead Lake on March 10 — 35 days ahead of the typical schedule — which brought outflows from Selis Ksanka Qlispe Dam (formerly Kerr Dam) to near minimums.
Typically, operators of the dam allow Flathead Lake’s level to rise during the summer to support recreational use. Then, Energy Keepers begins to draw down the lake in winter to help reduce storm-related lakeshore erosion and to prepare for the inflow of spring runoff.
“We typically like to have the lake in the top foot, 2,892 feet to 2,893 feet, for recreation during the summer,” Togo said. “Refill is achieved in a typical water year sometime towards the middle of June.”