There was much frustration and finger-pointing as the summer progressed on one of Montana's crown jewels in 2023.

And while the amount of spring and summer moisture this year will still have a lot to say about favorable conditions as the recreation season progresses, the issues that caused so much angst last year are now being addressed. Simply stated, the strategy is to start with more water.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced approval of a request from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes' Energy Keepers Inc. to relax the Flood Risk Management plan, and allow for a higher spring lake level than usual.


Typically, each spring, Flathead Lake's water level is taken down to 2,883’ levels. The approved change, which will take effect April 15, will raise the flood risk management elevation from 2,883’ to the 2,885’ range. This deviation increases the probability of lake refill in June, but estimations suggest the flood risk will be minimal.

Flathead Lake Montana
Image courtesy of Getty Images, Kayla Goss


Boaters, fishing charters, area businesses depending on tourism and many more were often stymied by the lake's diminishing access due to such low water levels. It certainly didn't help that summer flows in 2023 were among the driest seen in the history of the lake. Forecasters say that's a pattern they are expecting to continue in 2024.


Flathead lake began refilling operations earlier this year to respond to those precipitation and hydrological trends. By taking action early in the season, the goal is to increase the  likelihood Flathead Lake will reach its maximum elevation. If they experience unforeseen precipitation, the Corps of Engineers has a plan in place to make further changes.

Flathead Lake Montana
Image courtesy of Getty Images, Joesboy

There are obviously still a lot of moving pieces. But hopefully implementing a plan like this now will pay dividends all the way around this summer.

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