The Billings Outpost

Fish ladder wins award

THOMPSON FALLS – In recognition of its successful fish ladder project at the Thompson Falls hydroelectric plant, PPL Montana on Tuesday received an “Outstanding Steward of America’s Waters” award from the National Hydropower Association. 

It’s the fifth time in 10 years that PPL Montana has received recognition from the National Hydropower Association for significant stewardship projects, including on the Madison and Missouri rivers, and at the Mystic Lake and Thompson Falls operations.

The award, nationally competitive and granted by a diverse panel of judges, was presented during the National Hydropower Association’s annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Dedicated in September 2010, the Thompson Falls fish ladder is the first full-length fish ladder in the continental United States specifically designed to accommodate bull trout, a federally listed threatened species. It’s also the tallest fish passage facility of its kind in Montana.

The steel and concrete ladder system has 48 step pools that permit fish to gradually ascend about 75 feet to the top of, and over, the dam.

 The first bull trout passed upstream through the new structure on April 26, 2011. Since then, thousands of native Montana trout and other fish species have used the ladder to reach the upper Clark Fork River system.

Funded entirely by PPL Montana, the $9 million fish ladder was built in collaboration with federal and state wildlife agencies and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and supports the company’s federal operating license in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.

Advanced biological monitoring, trapping and tagging technology, and adaptive ladder operations will allow scientists

to better support and enhance fish movement patterns and timing of runs in the Clark Fork River.

As part of the project, PPL Montana is improving public access and recreational facilities at Thompson Falls, including an observation deck for visitors to view fish ladder operations as well as pedestrian access to trails and other recreation sites on Island Park.

This fish ladder also received the 2011 Outstanding Group Achievement Award from the Montana Chapter of the American Fisheries Society in February.

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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