River level low for dam maintenance, impacts city recreation operations

The Missouri River has been low the last week or so to allow for repairs at Black Eagle Dam, but it’s also impacting city irrigation systems.

During the flooding in June, NorthWestern Energy crews removed some steel beams and wooden boards to allow more water to pass through the dam.

Now NorthWestern needs to replace those and crews need to inspect and repair the permanent steel beams as needed. The permanent beams support the bridge deck of the dam.

Butch Larcombe, spokesman for NorthWestern, said that the company is gradually drawing down the water level at Black Eagle to dam to the crest of the dam, which is expected in the next two to three days.

Once it reaches that level, they’ll begin repairs, Larcombe said.

“We will work to keep the river level at or just below the crest of the dam for three to four working days to get this work done. Once we are done, the river flows should rise relatively quickly. We are hoping that if all goes as planned to have the reservoir refilled by the end of next week.”

The low water levels are impacting city park maintenance efforts since the irrigation system at both golf courses and some parks is tied to the river.

Steve Herrig, Park and Recreation manager, said the golf courses have pumps in the river that feed the irrigation systems.

Anaconda Hills Golf Course pumps water to a pond on the grounds that is used for irrigation and the pond can hold about a day’s worth of water, Herrig said.

If the river drops a few more feet, like it’s expected to do, the pump will be out of the water, Herrig said.

Depending on how long the river levels are low and the weather, Eagle Falls might get dry, but Herrig said staff are working to adjust and encouraged public patience.

The water levels have also slowed installation of the city boat docks.

Lonnie Dalke, park supervisor, said the Broadwater Bay dock was just installed last week. It’s later in the season than usual, but the water levels were too high to install it last month.

The kayak dock at West Bank Park hasn’t been installed yet because first the water was too high and now it’s too low.