Friday, August 13, 2010 was groundbreaking day for the rebuild of the dam at Intake on the Yellowstone River.
Intended to be restructured to help pallid sturgeon survive, Governor Brian Schweitzer, representatives from all three members of the Montana Congressional Delegation, senior staff from the US Army Corp of Engineers, the Lower Yellowstone Conservation District, and the Nature Conservancy gathered to put shovels in the dirt on the 39.8 million dollar project which will give pallid sturgeon 160 miles to complete their spawning journeys and, theoretically,increase their numbers.
John Tubbs, US Department of the Interior’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science noted that now “Everyone knows the Nature Conservancy is in Eastern Montana.”
The most interesting story was told during the ceremony by Michael Powelson, Director of Government Relations for the Nature Conservancy. He shared the story about the origins of this project to save the pallid sturgeon.
Powelson said “The Nature Conservancy is proud and honored to be part of this project…I’ve been honored to be working on this project for the last eight years. It all started with having a whiskey and a cigar in a bar in Belgrade, Montana with Col. Jeff Bedey. He’s not here today, but it was his energy and vision that really got us involved and really was the platform of which this project went forward. I’m a federal lobbyist…I’m not an animal but I spent a lot of time in DC to get the project running. I’ve worked a good portion of the last eight years.”
Powelson also gave credit to Greg Johnson, project manager for most Corp of Engineer Projects in Eastern Montana. He said “When you find a good project manager, somebody who’s willing to stick with it. Who may never leave, may never get promoted,they may never get to go anywhere. But there’s a guy I’ve worked with for eight years who’s just been a true joy, and I feel has made more difference than probably anyone else on this project, Greg Johnson. Greg has admonished me, helped me, informed me, he’s bought me a couple of whiskeys as well, and he has just been great to work with.”
Phase 1 of the project is expect to be completed at the end of next June. It was awarded to Ames Construction from Aurora, Colorado for $17.8 million dollars to construct a new intake for the main irrigation canal and install fish screens to prevent fish from entering and becoming trapped in the irrigation canals.
Phase 2 will be bid out next summer. The second phase of the project will include the construction of a new rock ramp that will sustain the existing diversion for the region’s main
Governor Schweitzer also showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the project.