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MCALLISTER — One of the only sounds that breaks the serene stillness of Bear Trap canyon is the chaotic white noise of thousands of gallons of water slamming into the lower Madison River from the century-old Madison Dam. But the reason for the dam’s existence, the generation of hydroelectric power, hasn’t occurred in two years.

Despite being unable to perform its energy-generating duty while the dam’s generators and turbines are upgraded, it still conducts a vital function for keeping water temperatures in the lower Madison stable for fisheries: pulse flows.

The dam has conducted more pulses this year than ever before. One of the challenges has been balancing an increased usage of water for the pulses while also maintaining water levels for recreation in Hebgen Lake far upstream, which feeds the Madison River watershed.


Madison Dam, Ennis Lake

A jet boat skims over the surface of Ennis Lake on Aug. 9, 2021. High water temperatures in the lower Madison River have required the Madison Dam to release more pulse flows than every before, {span}contributing to lower water levels in Hebgen and Ennis Lakes{/span}

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Alex Miller is the county and state government reporter and can be reached at amiller@dailychronicle.com or by phone at 406-582-2648.

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