Sean Wells

HUNGRY HORSE (KPAX) - An inter-agency technical group responsible for making recommendations on dam and reservoir operations held a virtual meeting on Friday morning to discuss the Systems Operational Request submitted by Governor Greg Gianforte’s office on July 13.

The request asked the Technical Management Team (TMT) to address low water levels on Flathead Lake using all available data and criteria to consider releases from the Hungry Horse Reservoir into Flathead Lake.

Representatives from the Montana Bureau of Reclamation proposed an operation to increase water releases to a target of 18" below the full pool in Flathead Lake by July 31, 2023.

County Commissioners from both Lake and Flathead counties said this amount of water released would do little to help agriculture and recreation businesses affected by low water levels and asked for additional water to be released.

"We need a minimum of 14" [below full pool] to maintain the economy around Flathead Lake," Said Flathead County Commissioner Randy Brodehl.

The Bureau of Reclamation said any water release outside of 18" to the full pool mark could not be supported without significant research and studies on potential biological and ecological impacts.

TMT members held a poll and voted against the release of water from Hungry Horse Dam citing a lack of research and data and an irregular System’s Operational Request that did not provide time for rational answers.

The Technical Management Team is scheduled to meet next on July 19, 2023.