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Zinke lauds decision to hold more water in Flathead Lake this spring

by KATE HESTON
Daily Inter Lake | April 9, 2024 12:00 AM

Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke applauded Monday a plan to hold more water in Flathead Lake this spring.

The aim of the change, undertaken by the operators of the Séliš Ksanka QÍispé Dam and approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is to mitigate the low water levels that plagued the lake last summer, a phenomenon that many hydrologists and scientists anticipate will likely reoccur this year. 

"I'm glad to see the dam operators are making this adjustment and heeding the warnings raised by Lake County residents and officials and my office. It's clear to see by looking at the moisture content, a pivot was needed,” Zinke said in a statement. 

The operators of the dam — Energy Keepers, Inc. — got the go-ahead in March to keep more water in Flathead Lake. The water level is typically drawn down to 2,883 feet each spring as per the dam’s flood management plan. The deviation will keep the water level at 2,885 feet, two feet higher than in a typical year. 

Last summer, Flathead Lake saw record-low water levels, prompting outcry from shoreline residents and business owners. In response, Zinke introduced the Fill the Lake Act late last year, which would require the federal government to maintain lake levels during the summer by releasing water from the Hungry Horse Reservoir. 

“The communities that rely on the revenue from summer tourism will hopefully not suffer losses now,” Zinke said. “It was a commonsense step in the right direction.” 

After being introduced into Congress in November 2023, the Fill the Lake Act was referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where it remains. Zinke said he will continue to lobby Congress to take up the proposal.

“I introduced the Fill the Lake Act to make sure the input to Flathead Lake is adequate to maintain lake levels and will continue pushing my colleagues for a hearing on that bill,” Zinke said.  

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at kheston@dailyinterlake.com or 758-445.