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Officials ask feds to release more water into Flathead Lake amid low flow levels

Satellite view of Flathead Lake in western Montana.
Copernicus Sentinel data 2018 for Sentinel data
Satellite view of Flathead Lake in western Montana.

Montana officials are asking the federal government to release more water out of Hungry Horse Reservoir into Flathead Lake as flow levels reach historic lows.

According to data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi is more than a foot lower than its median level for this time of year.

Flathead Lake water levels are attributed to below-average snowpack and an early thaw that led to faster runoff.

Sen. Steve Daines, Rep. Ryan Zinke and Flathead County Commissioners sent the federal Bureau of Reclamation letters last week requesting more water be released through Hungry Horse Dam.

“Our concern is the people who live on the lake – their safety – the people that are recreating on the lake, the safety of every boat out there. And certainly the economy of Flathead County,” Flathead County Commissioner Randy Brodehl said.

Flathead County Commissioners say that forecasts showing water levels dropping further in July could lead to “dire” economic consequences: damage to docks and piers, boating accidents and tourists canceling trips to the area.

Brodehl says there are concerns about how releasing more water now could impact bull trout in the Columbia River system later in the summer.

The Bureau of Reclamation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
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