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NorthWestern Energy and The Missouri-Madison River Fund Trust announce funding for 2021 public recreation improvement projects

Feb 19, 2021

Butte, Mont. – Feb. 17, 2021 – Montanans and their guests like to be in or near the water during the peak recreation season, May – September, and that phenomenon was never more apparent than in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and other state and federal agencies document the unprecedented outdoor recreation that occurred in 2020.

While the intent of providing outdoor recreation facilities for the public is to provide opportunities for residents and visitors to participate in outdoor recreation, maintaining and improving facilities with available operation and maintenance funds is difficult for state and federal agencies in the face of declining budgets and ever-increasing visitation.

NorthWestern Energy and the Missouri-Madison River Fund are once again helping recreation managers improve and maintain services to ensure recreationists have a positive experience and protect Montana’s precious resources. Ten public recreation improvement projects on the Missouri and Madison rivers were awarded grant and matching funds by the River Fund Trust and NorthWestern for implementation in 2021. 

 Black Sandy ADA fishing pier

The new ADA-accessible fishing dock at Black Sandy State Park on Hauser Lake near Helena is among one of the recently completed projects that received a River Fund award.

A combination of $66,246 from NorthWestern Energy and $437,273 from the Missouri-Madison River Fund will be combined with $112,483 from agency and project partners to complete 10 projects totaling $616,002. NorthWestern Energy will supplement these funds by contributing an additional $472,290 to state, federal, and local agencies for operation and maintenance efforts at many existing recreation sites in 2021.

The Project 2188 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Operating License that authorizes NorthWestern Energy to operate their nine hydroelectric projects on the Missouri and Madison rivers includes conditions to ensure that public recreation sites, facilities, and opportunities remain available long into the future.

“The Missouri and Madison rivers offer a wide variety of public recreation facilities and opportunities. NorthWestern is pleased to support the efforts of a team of cooperative agencies for management of those facilities. Continued improvements will ensure that those opportunities exist for future generations,” said Andy Welch, Hydropower License Compliance Manager with NorthWestern Energy. “NorthWestern and its employees are proud to continue to support this collaborative private-public effort to improve recreation facilities and opportunities on these great rivers for all Montanans.”

Projects at Hebgen Lake in 2021 will include: installation of a vault latrine at Romsett Beach; addition of a second courtesy dock at the Rainbow Point Boat Launch which was reconstructed through a River Fund grant in 2020; and upgrades to the day use recreation site adjacent to Hebgen Dam. In addition, the three-lane boat ramp at Warm Springs Creek Access Site on the lower Madison will be replaced, and a section of shoreline at the confluence of the Madison and Jefferson rivers in Missouri Headwaters State Park will be stabilized and revegetated.


LCIC shade sails


The new shade sails over the outdoor use area at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls is among one of the recently completed projects that received a River Fund award.

The River Fund and NorthWestern will assist the Bureau of Land Management with roof replacements on structures at the Clark’s Bay Day Use Site on Hauser Lake, and at Log Gulch and Holter Lake campgrounds on Holter Lake.

River Edge Trail landslide 2019

Rivers Edge Trail landslide repair 2020

Before and after of the landslide repairs on the Rivers Edge Trail in Great Falls, which is among one of the recently completed projects that received a River Fund award.


In the Great Falls area: a 1,125-foot asphalt segment of the River’s Edge Trail along River Drive North will be replaced with a concrete surface and taller barriers for improved separation from the roadway; new entrance signs will be installed along Giant Springs Road marking the turn into the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center; and the existing vault latrine at the Fort Benton Canoe Camp will be replaced.

 A year ago, seven projects were funded in the 2020 River Fund grant cycle, but only two of those projects were completed last year largely due to delays associated with COVID-19 restrictions. Managers and partners look forward to completing the additional five projects this year, along with the 10 newly-funded ventures.

Rainbow Point Boat Launch

The new boat launch at Rainbow Point on Hebgen Lake near West Yellowstone is among one of the recently completed projects that received a River Fund award.

The remaining 2020 projects include: upgrades to the Milwaukee Fishing Access Site on the lower Madison; improvements to kiosks and shelter roofs as well as the Roe River rock wall in Giant Springs State Park; in addition to planning for lighting and HVAC upgrades and display upgrades at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center.

The 10 projects funded in 2021 raise the tally to 144 projects funded by the River Fund Trust since the first year of awards in 2007.  Annual project awards by the fund have averaged about $350,000 and total more than $5.3 million to date. River Fund grants and NorthWestern Energy matching funds helped leverage public agency and partner funding to provide more than $10.3 million of public recreation improvements in the Missouri-Madison corridor.

The Missouri-Madison River Fund trust for public recreation, currently valued at $7.6 million, 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 15th 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 the River Fund approved projects can be found on NorthWestern Energy’s website at, as well as information about NorthWestern Energy and its hydroelectric facilities.

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About NorthWestern Energy (Nasdaq: NWE)
NorthWestern Corporation, doing business as NorthWestern Energy, provides electricity and / or natural gas to approximately 734,800 customers in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska. We have generated and distributed electricity in South Dakota and distributed natural gas in South Dakota and Nebraska since 1923 and have generated and distributed electricity and distributed natural gas in Montana since 2002. More information on NorthWestern Energy is available on the company's Web site at

Media Contact:     
Jo Dee Black
(866) 622-8081

Full resolution photos available on request. 

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