I finished up guiding a little over two weeks ago, but there’s still plenty of paperwork piled high that needs some attention prior to the arrival of the new year. As of late, my time has been spent walking the rolling hills of eastern Montana behind the German engineered Draht better known as Stella. We hunt alone, or with one other hunter/dog combo which allows my brain and body to decompress from a long season behind the oars. I don’t want to worry about someone else, I want to be selfish for this short span of time and watch my dog work the CRP. This time alone also allows me to get my thoughts together and recently, I’ve had too much stress in my life due to things beyond my control. There was a death in our fly fishing family here in West Yellowstone that rocked us, I’ve got a side project that is chaotic to say the least, I really just want go bird hunting again and there’s the debacle at Hebgen Dam that just won’t stop.
Hebgen Dam and the on going construction project has proven to be a large pain in the a$$. Back in early October, October 7th, to be exact, Northwestern Energy (NWE) sent out a press release which stated, that once again the completion date will be pushed back to Dec. 31, 2015. Mind you, a year ago they promised that it would be finished up in July 2015. Then it got pushed to August, then October and now we sit at Dec 31, 2015. Surprise, surprise surprise…the fat lady is not singing what so ever, she’s not even warming up her voice. In fact, I doubt they will “finish” on Dec 31 as their tract record is so poor. Why would anyone trust what NWE is saying now? Most of what they say as far as completion is concerned has NEVER come true. Then, to top it all off, NWE surprised everyone, and by everyone, I mean every single person including NWE’s own biologist, by stating this lovely gem:
“The last construction project at Hebgen will be the relining of the existing wood pipeline from the new intake tower through the dam that discharges to the Madison River. This work is planned for the spring of 2017. Flows will temporarily be changed to the new spillway structure while this work is performed. This construction will begin in May, 2017, dependent on runoff flows, and will have a duration of approximately four months.”
This was never and I mean not one time, disclosed at any of their meaningless public meetings and I’ve been to darn near every single one of them. For NWE to slip these statements into a press release, at the bottom of the page, is sneaky to say the least. This is a huge issue that deserves it’s own press release. Let’s break down the above statement. First off, if NWE is finished up on December 31 (why they give an exact date is beyond me at this point), then the Madison River will once again have cold water from roughly 40 feet beneath the surface of the lake for 2016. Great news! However, this will only be for a single season as this “relining of the wood pipeline” apparently hasn’t been done according to the engineers approval the first time around. My question is this – why wasn’t this accomplished over the past seven years while the entire structure was dried in with a coffer dam? I guarantee you that every single engineer at NWE has walked that wooden pipeline more than a few times and this never came up until now? Really? So, we get one season of cold water and then bam!, we get an 8th season of water that comes off the top of Hebgen Lake? This is planned to start in May so that when the prime fishing season gets here we are set up with hot water for late June, July and August? They say “approximately four months” and we are supposed to believe NWE?
I’m done daydreaming that this project will ever finish up without folks like you and me stepping up and making some noise. And by noise I mean, actually making several phone calls to the deciders at NWE and those at Montana FWP who can help our cause. Recently, I spent over an hour talking with John Hines a VP at NWE and spoke my mind. I never hold much back with regards to this issue and I hope you will do the same. Mister Hines, phone number below, needs to hear from each and every angler, outfitter and guide on why this new project absolutely can not happen in the summer months. This is, hands down, more important than the fishing regulations that may or may not be coming our way. Folks spoke loudly about that and this needs the same attention. NWE is throwing biology out the window and their primary objective, according to their FERC license is to take care of the river first and foremost.406 449 833
According to Brent Mabbot, NWE’s biologist and friend of mine, this project could begin in September of 2017, giving NWE September, October, November and December to complete. If they run into problems, then they could even stretch it out to March, April and be finished up by May 2018. Apparently, there is no way around this relining of the wood pipeline. It must be done. Ok, fine, but someone needs to be accountable for why it wasn’t done already and most importantly, this project needs to be done in the months where it will hurt the river the least.
There are many issues that lots of local anglers have with NWE. The biggest one is this: NWE is doing whatever they want, whenever they want, with total disregard for the resource and secondly, the communities who rely on the Madison River for economic and recreational opportunities are being told to deal with it. Well, I’m tired of dealing with it and I want the Madison, the river that made me move to Montana in the first place almost twenty years ago, to get back to it’s old self once again.
Speak up, would ya?!
John Hines NWE VP 406 449 8333
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Travis Horton MT FWP 406 994 3155406 994 3155
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