Crisis on Flathead Lake, Zinke Pressures Feds on Lake Level
Western Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-MT01) is hammering the federal government over the dangerously low lake levels on Flathead Lake. Flathead County Commissioner Randy Brodehl says crops could be wiped out, and a mutli-million dollar tourism economy is in jeopardy as well.
Earlier this week, Zinke and Montana's US Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) sent a letter to the Bureau of Reclamation calling for additional releases of water from Hungry Horse Reservoir in order to bring up the water level in Montana's world-renowned Flathead Lake.
On Friday morning, Commissioner Brodehl told us that the lake was down over 19 inches below where it should be.
Commissioner Brodehl: That's exposing not only rocks all over, but it's also exposing entries into to our marinas and into the docks. And so lots of folks are having to pull their their boats out of the water just to keep them from hitting the rocks when they're leaving the dock. The second critical issue that we're dealing with is now the intakes for some of our irrigation folks, our producers, agricultural producers are now being exposed and they're no longer able to irrigate their crops. And as you know, the Flathead has- we grow everything from wheat to potatoes to canola, and that's becoming a critical risk for us right now.
The commissioner says Flathead County is getting no response from the Bureau of Reclamation, something he says is not normal.
Commissioner Brodehl: Tourism brings over $600 million to Flathead County and now all of a sudden that's been put at risk. We're not asking for the Bureau of Reclamation, who is under the Biden administration, to bring the levels up to full pool, we're asking them to get it within 12 inches of full pool for 60 days.
Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke told us earlier in the week that water can be released from Hungry Horse Reservoir. He also called out the Bureau of Reclamation for failing to act.
Rep. Zinke: It is inexcusable when the government doesn't act and the bureaucracy is so tied up that they don't have the courage to do the right thing.
Commissioner Brodehl drove around Flathead Lake Friday afternoon, after joining us on the radio and said, "Went along the east shore this afternoon and saw all the docks too high in the air to be used."
Here's the audio of Friday's chat with Commissioner Brodehl: (2nd half of the below audio)
And here is the audio of our chat earlier this week with Congressman Zinke: (2nd half of the below audio)