POLSON — U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT) has introduced a Fill the Lake Act, legislation that would require the U.S. Department of Interior to maintain a minimum pool level on Flathead Lake during the summer.
This legislation would require the Secretary of Interior to keep Flathead Lake at no less than one foot below full pool between June 15 and Sept. 15 of each calendar year.
The legislation stems from unprecedented low lake levels this past summer that affected towns on the lake.
“I think for Lake County, the biggest impact was economic impact, just a loss of business to the marinas, hotels, restaurants and downtown stores,” said Lake County Commissioner Gale Decker.
The plan would be to use water from Hungry Horse Reservoir — which the Department of Interior manages — to keep Flathead Lake levels stable.
“Hungry Horse Reservoir exists for the management of water downstream, and that means Flathead Lake. Unfortunately, the delays and bureaucracy created by the Department of the Interior and the technical management team made a bad situation even worse. This bill takes out the ambiguity and forces the Department and its unelected bureaucrats to do their most basic job so that Montanans don’t suffer from their mistakes again.” - Rep. Ryan Zinke statement
This legislation is supported by State Senator Greg Hertz who represents Polson, as well as the Flathead County and Lake County commissioners.
Decker says Flathead Lake had never reached such low levels before last summer.
“This event that happened this year, it's the first time it's ever happened. We've had other years of severe drought, and the lake is managed at pretty much full pool no matter what the drought and snowpacks have been over previous years and this year was an anomaly I guess we'd say,” said Decker.
The Fill the Lake Act still needs to go before Congress for a vote.