Tester Calls for Immediate Action on Flathead Lake Water Levels

Citing current drought, 2023 low water levels, Senator calls on Technical Management Team to act fast

Citing the current drought conditions and lessons learned from historically low 2023 water levels in Flathead Lake, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today urged the Technical Management Team to consider drought projections when setting summer draft limits for the Hungry Horse Project in order to better mitigate potential water shortages in summer 2024.

“Last year, the Flathead and Clark Fork basins in western Montana experienced severe drought conditions resulting in significant impacts across the region including historically low water levels in Flathead Lake,”wrote Tester in a letter to the Technical Management Team (TMT). “A lesson learned from 2023 is action must be taken early to try to mitigate the worst case scenarios when summer months arrive. As such, I encourage the TMT to take action now on the summer draft limits to put the region in the best possible position to manage the drought.”

The Technical Management Team is comprised of several states, including the state of Montana, Tribes, and several federal agencies, and plays a critical role in assisting management of regional dam operations and reservoirs.

Tester continued: “Unfortunately, the information we have now on current snowpack and forecasts suggest that drought conditions will likely persist into the summer of 2024. That’s why acting on the May forecast is critical for Hungry Horse Project management as it is the primary storage reservoir in the upper basin. Early attention to these drought forecasts will ensure that the Bureau of Reclamation has the tools it needs to effectively manage the Hungry Horse Project and balance the many interests at stake across western Montana.”

Once the Bureau of Reclamation receives recommendations from the TMT, it can work to safely mitigate low water levels and plan for summer 2024.

“Flathead Lake is extremely important to Montana’s residents and economy. All of us in Montana want to see Flathead Lake at or near full pool during the summer months. In the coming weeks and months, I stand ready to work with the TMT, state, local and tribal governments and the Department of Interior to help ensure the region is in the best position to mitigate drought conditions,” Tester concluded.

Read Tester’s full letter HERE.