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Upcoming Northwestern Energies Fisheries Projects On The Upper Madison In 2021

Updated: Mar 1

Conservation Projects Carry On In 2021

Northwestern Energies (NE) operates nine hydro developments in Montana under Project License 2188 (Madison-Missouri River). License Protection, Mitigation and Enhancement (PM&E) projects are required to offset impacts to river resources from the continued operation of one or more of NE’s nine hydro developments (Hebgen, Madison, Hauser, Holter, Black Eagle, Rainbow, Cochrane, Ryan and Morony Dams). PM&E projects need to be prioritized toward in-river or on-the-ground measures that directly benefit fisheries and/or wildlife populations and their habitats. They also include funding for labor by FWP to produce annual reports to NE describing the work of the previous year’s activities and how they meet federal requirements.

There’s some interesting projects on the way to the Madison River and it’s tributaries this season. Among them a couple major research projects perhaps more long term focused. One aimed at studying the current flushing flow regime and how to improve that function if possible, and another examining the situation surrounding the seasonal dewatering of Indian Creek (a major drainage to the Madison). Others include new phases to the long term O’Dell Spring Creek restoration project, a fish barrier on a major tributary, westslope cutthroat habitat improvement in another tributary, and a swale reconstruction project to improve riparian habitat on a specific bank of river near Ruby Creek FAS.


Below I’ve tried to condense and/or describe in plain English summaries of each project. Some are pretty ”science-y”. I’ve also gathered the timeline and project costs for each one. One of the more interesting projects for me is the flushing flow research. So I’ll start with that one.


Madison River Sediment Mobility Evaluation

The primary objectives of this proposed study are to assess how flushing flows on the Madison River relate to sediment movement and to use that information to build on current efforts to improve mainstem spawning habitats. Above is a photo I took from the Ennis bridge last Spring during the flush flow.


Currently, substrate core samples are collected every year, and additional geomorphic and macroinvertebrate data every five years. Data are analyzed and results reviewed to determine flushing flow needs.


The flushing flow currently calls for up to 3,500 cfs at the Kirby gage for a minimum of 3 days in years when both runoff volume forecasts and Hebgen storage triggers are met. For those not fa