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Beartrap Canyon to Reopen After Boulder Damages Dam (MT)

Posted: 09/03/2010
by Kevin Colburn

PPL Montana to reopen road into Bear Trap Canyon and limit Ennis Lake drawdown to five feet



ENNIS, Mont. (Sept. 3, 2010) — PPL Montana will reopen the road that provides access to its Madison Dam and public recreation areas immediately downstream in the Bear Trap Canyon for the Labor Day weekend.

“Safety of the public and employees continues to be the top priority as we move forward with plans to repair Madison Dam,” said David Hoffman, director of External Affairs for PPL Montana. “In consultation with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, state and federal regulatory agencies, geologists and other experts, PPL Montana has determined that conditions are safe for public use of the road, and that’s good news for the Labor Day weekend.”

Equipment atop the west side of the dam was damaged by a falling boulder from the wall of Bear Trap Canyon early Monday (8/30).

The road will be opened at 7 a.m. Saturday (9/4) and remain open until sunset on Monday (9/6). The road will remain closed on weekdays, to allow construction equipment to access the dam. It may reopen on weekends after Labor Day, depending on the status of the work being done at the dam.

Hoffman said PPL Montana is sensitive to the importance of the fisheries, angling and boating on this popular section of the Madison River, and to the local economy.

“We’re pleased that we can open the road for the holiday weekend,” Hoffman said. “We ask the public to be mindful, however, that that road will be closed during the week so we can bring equipment to the dam. We plan to post signage by the Trail Creek trailhead with information about the status of the road.”

Meanwhile, PPL Montana will complete a 5-foot drawdown of Ennis Lake by Friday night as the first step in the company’s plans to remove the boulder and repair the damaged equipment on the western crest of the dam. To reduce pressure on the dam and the boulder, PPL Montana began to draw down Ennis Lake behind the dam on Monday evening.

The current flow rate of 3,300 cubic feet per second should limit effects on fishing and recreation on the lower Madison River, but the drawdown will affect boat docks and public launch sites on Ennis Lake. Flows will be reduced even further over the weekend — to near 1,400 cubic feet per second — once the drawdown is complete.

“Working with geologists and other experts, we’ve also determined that another large rock above the dam is anchored to the canyon wall,” Hoffman said. “That will allow us safe access to make repairs.”

Damaged equipment on the dam includes three spill gates, walkways and wooden flashboards that sit atop the dam and raise the level of water it is able to hold back.

PPL Montana is coordinating its efforts at Madison Dam with regulatory agencies and law enforcement officials from the state and local level up to FERC, which is responsible for oversight of hydroelectric facilities.

Kevin Colburn
Asheville, NC

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