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NorthWestern Energy and The Missouri-Madison River Fund Trust announce funding for 2019 public recreation improvement projects

Apr 03, 2019

Butte, Mont. – April 2, 2019 Montanans and our guests like to be in or near the water to recreate and good public facilities and access to the rivers and reservoirs are important.   NorthWestern Energy and the Missouri-Madison River Fund are once again helping local, state and federal recreation managers improve and maintain services so recreationists have a positive outdoor experience. Fourteen public recreation improvement projects on the Missouri and Madison rivers have been selected for funding in 2019 by the River Fund Trust and NorthWestern Energy. 

Funding includes $313,977 from the Missouri-Madison River Fund and $71,525 from agency and project partners, and $56,251 from NorthWestern Energy, a total of $441,753. In addition, NorthWestern Energy will contribute  $448,805 to state, federal, and local agencies for operation and maintenance of multiple existing recreation sites.

“The Missouri and Madison rivers offer a wide variety of public recreation facilities and opportunities. NorthWestern Energy is pleased to support and be a part of the collaborative  efforts with the resource agencies and local recreation managers to enhance the recreational value of the rivers. Not only do new facilities help meet the need for additional recreation facilities, but continued improvements will ensure that those opportunities exist for future generation,” said Andy Welch, Hydropower License Compliance Leader with NorthWestern Energy. “NorthWestern Energy and its employees are proud of the company’s stewardship programs including working alongside the agencies to improve recreation facilities and opportunities on these great rivers”.

Projects at Hebgen Lake include constructing a new boat ramp at Rainbow Point Campground to improve boater access to Hebgen Lake and adding gravel to 15 campsites constructed in 2018 at Spring Creek Campground. In addition, a 31-foot dugout canoe - just like those used to navigate the Missouri River by the Lewis & Clark Expedition - will be purchased for display at Missouri Headwaters State Park.

Projects at Hauser Lake will improve access for those with disabilities to the administrative office at Devil’s Elbow Recreation Area on upper Hauser Lake where visitors engage with staff for gathering area information and regulations, purchasing passes, etc. Improvements to the lower Hauser Lake area will improve the stability of the floating dock at the boat launching area at White Sandy Recreation Area and will install an ADA-accessible fishing pier at Black Sandy State Park. The former fishing pier at Black Sandy was removed in 2012 due to failure of the structure.

The campground portion of the Fishing Access Site at Craig, a few miles below Holter Dam on the Missouri River, will be upgraded with a new site host area, which will allow for a seasonal site host to help provide visitor services and regulate use of the camp area and boat launching facilities at the site. Another Fishing Access Site on the Missouri River at Ulm will receive road upgrades and site clean-up to repair damage sustained during spring 2018 flooding and to remove some downed trees and other debris to enhance public access.

Six projects will improve recreation opportunities in Great Falls. Visitors to West Bank Park will be able to enjoy wildlife and bird watching from a new viewing station that will be equipped with commercial grade binoculars, while kayakers,paddleboarders, and floaters will enjoy an improved carry-in launch and extended dock. Repairs will be made to the rock and mortar wall surrounding Roe Island at Giant Springs State Park, and addition of a shade sail over the picnic site at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center will provide shelter so that visitors can enjoy a picnic lunch or take in the surrounding views with protection from the hot summer sun. For those that venture out onto the extensive Rivers Edge Trail system, a footbridge will be added to the trail near the Region 4 Fish, Wildlife & Parks Headquarters that will allow water and debris to flush under railroad tracks and into a nearby collection area, while keeping wash debris off the trail surface. Funding was awarded to Montana Fish Wildlife & Park to buy an off-highway vehicle for safety patrols and visitor rescues along the trails between Rainbow Dam and Morony Dam.

These projects raise the tally to 126 projects funded by the River Fund Trust since the first year of awards in 2007.  Annual project awards by the fund total nearly $4.5 million to date. River Fund grants and NorthWestern Energy matching funds have helped leverage public agency and partner funding to provide more than $9 million of public recreation improvements in the Missouri-Madison corridor.

The Missouri-Madison River Fund is the primary mechanism NorthWestern relies on to comply with recreation requirements of its license (FERC Project #2188) to operate nine dams on the Madison and Missouri rivers. It is a $6.8 million trust fund for public recreation, was created through the collaborative efforts of NorthWestern Energy; Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; Madison, Gallatin, Broadwater, Lewis & Clark, Cascade and Chouteau counties; and numerous other public and private partners.  This year marks the 13th year in which earnings from the trust have been awarded to recreation improvement projects through the River Fund program.

Created as a public-private partnership to meet public recreation needs along the Madison and Missouri rivers, the River Fund supports ongoing efforts to protect and enhance recreation from Hebgen Reservoir downstream to Fort Benton, excluding the Toston and Canyon Ferry hydroelectric plants and the river segment between them. River Fund awards for qualifying projects will continue on an annual basis, with grants awarded each December. 

A list of projects can be found at, a website dedicated to Missouri-Madison Recreation.  More information about NorthWestern Energy and its hydroelectric facilities can be found at

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NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 726,400 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at

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