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Test Water Flow From Fort Peck Expected Less Than Originally Planned

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is required by the Endangered Species Act to preform three to five test flows from Fort Peck Dam in the next several years. The test water flow amount released from the Fort Peck Dam is anticipated to be less than originally planned, according to U.S. Corps of Engineers’ officials.

During a conference call last week, Joe Bonneau of the U.S. Corps of Engineers said the maximum amount is now planned to be 22,000 cubic feet per second in June. Originally, the high amount was 28,000 cfs. The level will decrease to 8,000 cfs in early July.

Bonneau said the amount will be a flow that occurs naturally about every three to four years. He added that the reduction takes away some of the concerns that stakeholders have expressed.

He told stakeholders on the call that it’s a test and not a permanent change in operations.

The goal is to bring pallid sturgeon all the way from the Yellowstone River to the Fort Peck Dam to spawn.

Eastern Montana farmer Dick Iversen expressed his concern whether growers will have the ability to fix pump sites. He said the work by growers would need to take place in April instead of May when the test flow increases.

“We need to know in advance to fix pump sites,” Iversen said.

Also, he raised concerns that when the flow is reduced to 8000 CFS in early July, the pump sites might need work again. This will be due to the higher flows in May and June that could cause some pump sites to be silted in again. This time of year is tough since the river banks will be saturated and not safe to maneuver the equipment needed to remove silt.

When asked what will be the difference for the pallid sturgeon in 2024 compared to 2023, officials pointed to better control of the timing and providing warmer water conditions.

One of the project’s goals of the test is to investigate responses of pallid sturgeon adults and survival of young fish. Officials are looking to find implementation pathways that are sensible and sensitive to the range of concerns expressed.

The call was attended by irrigators from Montana and North Dakota, Western Area Water Authority and Conservation District individuals.

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