A Pipe Runs Through It

Any southwest Montanan would agree that the Madison River is one of the best local playgrounds around, which is really saying something in our neck of the woods. But there’s a possibility we could see some changes on Montana’s premier blue ribbon trout stream.

Hydrodynamics, Inc., of Bozeman has filed an initial plan with the Federal Regulatory and Energy Commission to possibly build a hydroelectric generating facility at the outlet of Quake Lake. The proposed facility would have a 50-foot-high intake structure and a 3,200-foot pipe between Highway 287 and the Madison River to divert water used in electricity product. Though the plan is in the early stages and could change, it has been the subject of heated discussion. And although alternative energy production is not something to be ignored, critics worry the facility could limit flows and raise water temperatures.

Ben Singer, project manager for Hydrodynamics, explains that “The only thing a preliminary permit does is to prevent other entities from filing a license application for three years.” He adds, “The intake would be submerged, the pipe underground, and the powerhouse recessed into the hill, so there would be very little to take away from the scenery.”

Some area residents are still wary, though. “If anything were to go wrong, the effects not only on the river but also to the economies of nearby Ennis and West Yellowstone could be devastating,” comments Ryan Ongley, fishing manager at Bozeman’s UFA Wholesale Sports. “Montana is known as the last best place for a reason. There are plenty of other rivers where the risks are far less.”