Governor Greg Gianforte is blasting the federal government for not releasing more water from Hungry Horse Reservoir to ease the record low water levels that have hit Flathead Lake, saying he's "disappointed and frustrated".

Now, the Governor is making a formal request to the Columbia River Technical Management Team, asking the region's leaders to take action to help correct the local runoff problems.

The earlier-than-usual melt off of last winter's meager snowpack in Northwest Montana has caused the lake to drop to some of the mid-summer lowest levels in decades. On Thursday, the U.S. Geological Survey's gauge showed the lake level at 2,891 feet (elevation), which is a good two feet below "full pool".

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Congressional and State pressure to release water

Senator Steve Daines, Congressman Ryan Zinke and Governor Gianforte have all called on the Bureau of Reclamation to release move water downstream from Hungry Horse Reservoir. Although, the Bureau has noted the water supply in the South Fork impoundment is also about 7-feet below "full pool." And there have been estimates as much as 15-feet of water would have to be released to provide relief on Flathead.

After a meeting of the Technical Management Team Wednesday, Gianforte accused the TMT of "not shooting straight" on the issue.

"Last week, I asked federal officials for formal analysis to support a potential request for a release from the Hungry Horse Project, and I haven't gotten it," Gianforte complained in a prepared statement.

"Ultimately, the federal agencies which oversee the Hungry Horse Project have the data and authority to make an informed decision, and I urge them to use that to act instead of punting their responsibility.” -Governor Gianforte

U.S.G.S graphic
U.S.G.S graphic

Gianforte wants more information

Now, the Governor has submitted a System Operational Request to the TMT, which includes the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. That SOR asks the agencies to use "all available data and criteria" to consider releasing more water into the system. And he asked the TMT to "act without delay."

Gianforte says even though he asked for more information back on July 6th, he's yet to receive a formal response, only "partial, incomplete information.'

It remains to be seen whether Gianforte's submission of the SOR will spur the agencies to change their approach, which also includes fisheries management issues and power generation.

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