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NorthWestern Energy Announces 2015 Funding for Fisheries, Wildlife and Habitat Enhancement Projects on the Madison and Missouri Rivers

Jan 14, 2015

Butte, Mont. – Jan. 14, 2015 -- NorthWestern Energy announced today that it will fund $1.3 million in fisheries, wildlife and habitat enhancement projects along the 550 river-mile corridor of the Madison and Missouri Rivers from Yellowstone National Park to the headwaters of Fort Peck Reservoir in Montana. 

“This stewardship program was initiated in 2000 in cooperation with our state and federal resource agencies to monitor and offset potential effects from the nine hydroelectric projects we operate on the Madison and Missouri Rivers” said Jon Jourdonnais, Leader - Hydropower License Compliance. The enhancement projects are in compliance with NorthWestern’s Project 2188 FERC License requirements as well as its ongoing commitment to river stewardship and conservation. 

Jourdonnais adds that the program is effective and demonstrates the positive results of good cooperation between federal, state and local government; private landowners and non-governmental organizations all working toward similar goals in river conservation. 

“This year we will collaborate with 12 different government agencies, 15 private landowners and nine different non-governmental conservation groups on these projects,” he said.  “NorthWestern’s private funding provides a big advantage because it often serves as seed money to secure matching funds from other already appropriated state and federal grant programs.”  NorthWestern’s funding will leverage an additional $1.2 million in outside matching funds and in-kind donations, resulting in a total of $2.5 million for 2015 river resource stewardship. 

The habitat improvement projects on rivers and tributaries include:

  • Improvements to willow habitat near Hebgen Lake;
  • Stream habitat enhancement projects on five tributaries of the Madison River including continuation of an already successful project that has improved and restored over 700 acres of prime wetlands and 10 miles of high-quality spring creek habitat on O’Dell Creek near Ennis; 
  • Three stream habitat enhancement projects on tributaries to Hauser Reservoir in the Helena valley;
  • Three stream habitat enhancement projects along the Missouri River downstream from Holter Dam;
  • Projects to build riparian fences to enhance riverside habitats and assist in native cottonwood forest recovery along the Missouri River downstream of Fort Benton.      

The projects to protect and enhance endangered species and species of special concern include:

  • Continuation of the successful program to expand genetically pure populations of native westslope cutthroat throat in the Missouri – Madison river drainages;
  • Ongoing support of the recovery of pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River;
  • Release of more juvenile trumpeter swans, with a goal of establishing five breeding pairs, in the upper Madison River Valley.       

Research projects include:

  • Investigations of moose, beaver, nesting bald eagles and rainbow trout in or near Hebgen Lake;
  • Surveys of anglers downstream from Holter Dam and in the “wild and scenic” designated section of the Missouri River below Fort Benton to determine effects on fish populations;
  • Evaluation of spawning and seasonal movements of endangered pallid sturgeon and several other fish species in the Missouri River below Great Falls.

In addition to all of the above projects, fish and wildlife population monitoring is an important part of this program, which Jourdonnais says is no easy task given the geographically large and diverse system that NorthWestern is responsible for. Therefore, we provide substantial funding for, and work closely with, governmental agencies such as the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to maintain excellent long-term fisheries and wildlife trend data that provide useful management information to determine the health of the overall ecosystem. Funding is also provided to the University of Montana’s Avian Science Center to continue monitoring key migratory bird species using riparian (riverside) habitats affected by our river operations. 

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About NorthWestern Energy
NorthWestern Energy provides electricity and natural gas in the Upper Midwest and Northwest, serving approximately 678,200 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.  More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's website at

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