Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hebgen Wardrobe Malfunction

Hebgen Lake dam gate fails; campgrounds evacuated, closed Water flow resembles spring runoff

By The Montana Standard Staff - 09/01/2008
ENNIS-- Madison County residents along the Hebgen Lad dam spillway and Madison River breathed a sigh of relief Monday as daylight brought reassurance that the river, although higher than average for a Labor Day weekend, was still well within its banks. Strange noises coming from the dam at Hebgen Lake Sunday morning concerned fisherman enough to notify local authorities, according to a news release from the Madison County Disaster and Emergency Services.At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, PP&L personnel verified the mechanical failure of two of the lower gates on the dam causing not only a significant increase of the water flow but also an increase in anxiety for the residents of Madison Valley.

PP&L engineer assessements further calmed nervous citizens when inspections revealed the integrity of the dam structure is sound.David Hoffman, Public Information Officer for PP&L, said the normal flow of 800 cubic square feet/second increased to 3400 CFS because of the malfunctioning gates. Although the increased flow was four times the average for this time of year, the normal spring run off water flow is about 3500 CFS.

Teams of emergency workers were dispatched to notify locals living near the river of the possibility of evacuation and to be prepared. The campgrounds from Hebgen Lake to Ennis Lake were evacuated and closed, water recreationists were warned of rising waters.The water level in the Madison River is expected to remain at higher levels for the next several days while repairs to the dam are completed. The water at Ennis Lake has been lowered by PP&L to accommodate the higher water levels.

The Cabin Creek and Beaver Creek campgrounds on the Gallatin National Forest are closed as well. All recreational facilities at Hebgen Lake above the dam are open to business as usual.

Campgrounds closures will be re-evaluated by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Monday For further information, call the Madison County Sheriff Department, 406-843-5301.Roger Thompson of the Madison County Sheriff Department is the incident commander in charge. More than 60 personnel including, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish Wildlife and Parks, Madison County Sheriff's Department, Madison Valley Rural Fire Department, Ennis Ambulance Service, Gallatin County responders and the Madison Valley Community Emergency Response Team members are currently providing emergency services to the residents of the Madison Valley.

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