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Open House Answers Questions About Kerr Dam Transfer

Hydroelectric dams like the Salish Ksanka Qlispe Dam in Polson worry invasive mussels could clog up energy production.
Corin Cates-Carney
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The dam power generation plant as seen from down river. CSKT paid $18.3 million for Séliš Ksanka QÍispé, formerly known as Salish Kootenai Dam and Kerr Dam, located about five miles southwest of Polson. ";s:

The tribal corporation that took ownership of Kerr Dam (now called Séliš Ksanka QÍispé) just over a month ago hosted an open house explaining the change in ownership.

When Energy Keepers Incorporated of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes took over the dam in early September it became the first major hydroelectric generation facility owned by native tribes. That raised interest from politicians and policy influencers around the state. About a dozen showed up at the dam Wednesday for a tour.

Bob Keenan represents State Senate District 5. He joined the walk through the dam.

“I’ve done a lot of questioning of this transfer and it’s important to come in and get a hands on operation itself.”

Energy Keepers Operations Supervisor Lloyd Turnage leads a group through the power plant section of the dam. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes took ownership of the hydroelectric generation facility on September 5, 2015.
Credit Corin Cates-Carney
Energy Keepers Operations Supervisor Lloyd Turnage leads a group through the power plant section of the dam. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes took ownership of the hydroelectric generation facility on September 5, 2015.

Because this deal was so big – costing around $18 million for a facility that generates enough annual energy to light over 100,000 homes - Energy Keepers CEO Brian Lipscomb says it was important to be open in the process of change.

“There were some assumptions being made that we were going to make a bunch of changes. We just wanted to communicate that, no, that’s not the case. And in fact if there are any changes from an operational perspective that will be a public process."

Lipscomb says besides the dam taking on a different name, there is one major change: the tribal ownership will help revenue generated stay local, and local jobs will be created.

According to an Energy Keepers report, about 22 jobs will be created within the company to operate the dam.

The dam, now called Séliš Ksanka QÍispé, was known as Salish Kootenai Dam for a month, and Kerr Dam before that.

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