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Hebgen Dam malfunction causes water level drop; brings community together to save trout

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Posted at 8:43 AM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 10:43:17-05

ENNIS - In Ennis, as dawn broke on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, the fishing community gathered early in the morning to work as quickly as they could in order to save fish along the Madison River. A reported equipment malfunction at the Hebgen Dam caused river levels below the dam to drop.

The worry here is that as it gets colder fish could be trapped.

Hebgen Dam failure causes water level drop; brings community together to save trout
“It's Montana it's part of Montana, it's part of our community,” says Smith

“I just called the boss and got work off immediately and came out here and try to make something happen,” says Bozeman resident, Matthew Weaver.

The urgency not only is it to save the fish but the community that this industry supports.

“This is a livelihood for a lot of people in Ennis and West Yellowstone,” says Mary Margaret Smith.

According to the USGS, since Tuesday water levels have dropped around a foot, it got to a low as around 600-650 cfs, where it has normally been flowing at around 850 cfs.

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“Monitor the river and access conditions and doing what we can to move fish that are stranded back into the main channel,” says Public Information Officer for FWP Region 3 Morgan Jacobsen.

Now FWP is monitoring the Madison River but also assisting the volunteers who came out.

“It sounds like it’s going to be a scoop and grab,” says Weaver.

The goal today was to cover as much area as possible as groups of fishers gathered along the banks of the river from Hebgen Dam to Ennis.

“It’s a great demonstration of how much people care about the resources in the river here,” says Jacobsen.

The fishermen and women that met along the Madison River say it's more than just helping save trout.

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The goal today was to cover as much area as possible as groups of fishers gathered along the banks of the river from Hebgen Dam to Ennis.

“It's Montana it's part of Montana, it's part of our community,” says Smith

What caused the gate malfunction at the dam is unknown but fishermen and women we spoke with say they would like to know more.

“[We] would like more answers from NorthWestern Energy about what actually happened,” says Smith.

Right now Northwestern Energy officials say they are working to fix the dam but still haven't provided a timeline of when water flows could resume as normal. But Montana fishermen and women say they are ready to help out as long as needed

 “Right now we're just hanging on to the fact the community is gathered here together,” says Smith.

MTN news will continue to bring more updates as they become available.

RELATED:

NorthWestern Energy hopes to have Hebgen Dam repaired soon
Crews working to restore Hebgen Dam gate functionality and full river flows to the Madison River