FOR the second time in three years, PPL Montana has won the Outstanding Stewardship of America’s Rivers Award recognising the company’s role in managing environmental and recreational resources at its eight hydroelectric power plants and one storage reservoir along the Missouri and Madison rivers.

The national-hydropower-association (NHA) presented the award to PPL Montana, a subsidiary of PPL Corporation, at its annual conference on 26 April 2004 in Washington, DC. PPL Montana was among only ten hydro generation companies across the US to receive the award this year. It has committed US$23M for recreation, fisheries, water quality and wildlife habitat development along an 843km portion of the Madison-Missouri river corridor.

The river system

The Madison and Missouri river sys2tem is biologically and socially diverse, supporting both premier cold water trout and warm water fisheries, providing a full spectrum of recreational opportunities and natural scenic vistas for public users, and sustaining critical habitats for numerous migrant and resident wildlife species.

PPL Montana’s Madison-Missouri river project includes eight hydroelectric dams (Madison, Hauser, Holter, Black Eagle, Rainbow, Cochrane, Ryan and Morony) and one storage reservoir (Hebgen), which together provide 292MW of generation capacity, flood control, irrigation, public recreation and the protection and enhancement of fisheries, wildlife, riparian habitat and water quality.

A rich diversity of restoration and stewardship projects for fisheries, wildlife, recreation, water quality, and cultural resources are being completed as the result of a partnership of federal, state, county and private interests, including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, US Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Survey, US Bureau of Reclamation, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, Farm Service Agency, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, six Montana counties (Gallatin, Madison, Broadwater, Lewis and Clark, Cascade, and Chouteau), Montana Trout Unlimited, Montana Conservation Corp, Recreation Trails, Inc., American Rivers, private landowners and PPL Montana.

Among a diverse array of fish and wildlife projects, PPL Montana has worked with its partners to restore the rare fluvial Arctic grayling, pallid sturgeon and other fish species of concern into the Madison and Missouri river watersheds. Along river shorelines, the company has helped restore cottonwood, migratory bird and wildlife habitats.


An innovative technique to use pulsed river flows from the Madison hydroelectric facility to reduce water temperature in the lower Madison river for the protection of trout is being effectively implemented by PPL Montana and partner agencies. The flows include timed releases of water, determined by a computer-based decision support system, into the lower river from Madison reservoir during morning hours to reduce warming during the heat of the day.

During the summer of 2003 (one of the warmest and driest on record), 39 days of pulsed flows were required to maintain lower Madison river water temperatures below 28ºC, the lethal thermal limit for fishes. Without the flows, summer temperatures would have significantly exceeded this figure several times. The pulsed flow technique employs the latest computer modelling and internet technologies, providing a cost-effective tool to protect important fisheries resources while providing for upstream Hebgen reservoir recreation opportunities and energy production from Madison dam.

The Madison-Missouri river comprehensive recreation management programme incorporates integrated recreation resource development and management, including 32 new recreation sites, from primitive to highly developed settings across federal, state, local and private jurisdictional boundaries. This programme increases management efficiencies, improves the delivery of recreational services, and provides an innovative funding mechanism that allows for substantial financial leveraging by all stakeholders.

While PPL Montana is contributing US$10M for the 32 projects, more than US$16M in public recreation projects have been completed to date using PPL funds of US$5.9M. Additionally, US$5M is being accumulated in a long-term trust fund for future recreation site acquisition, development, operation and maintenance over the next 40 years.

To date, the Madison-Missouri river partnership has leveraged US$10.8M in PPL Montana funds committed for fisheries, wildlife, habitat and water quality restoration projects from 2000–2009 into a total of US$56M when combined with other federal, state and private fish and wildlife restoration funds dedicated to this programme. PPL Montana is working with state, federal agencies and private groups to implement and cost-share a diverse array of stewardship projects for fisheries, wildlife, habitat and water quality projects, including endangered species. PPL Montana and agencies are increasing juvenile populations of the endangered pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River below Fort Benton. Project partners are conducting a comprehensive inventory of Madison and Missouri riverine riparian habitats and their use by avian migrant birds and reptile and amphibian wildlife species. Madison and Missouri river project hydro operations have been designed to provide stable flows and reservoir levels, where necessary, to protect and enhance fisheries, wildlife and water quality resources. PPL Montana has designed and implemented a floating bulkhead system at several facilities that allows dam flashboard and spillway repairs without drafting project reservoirs, eliminating impacts on power generation, fisheries and water quality.

PPL Montana is monitoring long-term trends in water quality in the Madison and Missouri river and using this information to make appropriate adjustments in hydro operations to minimise harmful effects. Project 2188 partners have secured, using PPL Montana licensing funds as a leveraged match, a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Programme through the US Farm Service Agency which will provide funds for restoring up to 10,522ha of riparian and wetland habitats on private lands along the Madison and Missouri River corridor. PPL Montana and agency partners are implementing an international joint venture with conservation biologists in Sonora, Mexico and other southwestern US states to manage spring nesting migrant bird riparian habitats along the Missouri river in Montana and winter riparian habitats that these same migrant birds use in Sonora, Mexico.

Cultural resource identification and protection along the Madison and Missouri rivers is significantly enhancing the knowledge, understanding and management of prehistoric and historic cultural resources in the general region of the Project through PPL Montana’s Programmatic Agreement with state and federal agencies. The agreement provides cost-share opportunities for and protection to cultural resources in the context of hydro operations, fisheries, wildlife and water quality conservation projects, and recreation and land management developments.

Author Info:

For further information, please contact Jon Jourdonnais, Director of Hydro Licensing and Compliance, PPL Montana, 45 Basin Creek Road, Butte, Montana 59701, 406-533-3443,