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  • Kerr Hydroelectric Project Operation for Flathead Lake

    Jul 02, 2015

    Butte, Mont., July 2, 2015 – Representatives from NorthWestern Energy (NWE), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Energy Keepers, Inc. (“EKI”), Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Bonneville Power Administration have coordinated over the past several weeks  regarding current and projected operation of the Kerr Project. The current outflow is about 11,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and the lake elevation, as of July 2nd, was 2,892.39 feet, which is 0.61 feet from full elevation of 2,893.0 feet.
    Flathead Lake achieved full pool of 2,893.0 on June 15, meeting the full pool requirements of Article 43 of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) license.   Conditions however, did not permit NorthWestern to maintain full pool level.  As result, NorthWestern began implementing the pending Drought Management Plan (the “DMP”) that was submitted to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (“Interior”) for approval and filed with FERC in 2002. The DMP anticipates the management of drought conditions as a multi-step process.

    The first step in the DMP is to reduce the target lake elevation for the recreation season (June 15 to September 1) from 2,893 feet to 2,892 feet. If after reducing the lake level to 2,892, inflows into the lake are not adequate to maintain this elevation, the DMP anticipates one or both of the following steps to be taken to maintain the 2,892 elevation during the recreation season: (1) modifying the Article 56 minimum instream flows by matching the inflows and outflows, and/or (2) increasing flow into Flathead Lake from Hungry Horse Reservoir. The former step, modifying the minimum flows under Article 56, requires Interior’s concurrence and a variance from FERC, whereas the latter step is within the discretion of the Bureau of Reclamation, operator of Hungry Horse Reservoir and also part of the Department of the Interior.

    On June 24, 2015, NorthWestern, filed a request for Article 56 variance with Interior and FERC. On July 1, Interior, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) filed its response approving NorthWestern’s variance request. On July 2, FERC issued its letter approving NorthWestern’s variance request for the period July 1, 2015 through July 31, 2015, allowing NorthWestern to implement the second step of the DMP for that period. 

    NorthWestern has also worked with the Bureau of Reclamation for support of flows from the Hungry Horse project and, in response, the Bureau has increased outflows from Hungry Horse temporarily to support Kerr operations.  NorthWestern will continue to operate the Kerr project in accordance with the DMP-modified protocol described above through July 31, 2015.  Depending upon flow conditions, NorthWestern will seek additional license variances as necessary throughout the balance of the summer to support a Flathead Lake elevation of at least 2,892.0 ft.

    NorthWestern will continue to monitor conditions and provide additional information as it becomes available.

    For more media information, contact Corporate Communications at NorthWestern Energy (866) 622-8081.

    About NorthWestern Energy
    NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 692,600 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.  More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at

    Media Contact:
    Butch Larcombe
    (866) 622-8081

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