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Fishway at Thompson Falls hydro project opens with successful fish passage

The new upstream fish ladder at the Thompson Falls dam and hydropower project in Thompson Falls, Mont., has opened with a successful first run, reported GEI Consultants Inc., the firm selected by PPL Montana to provide ecological and engineering services for the project.

The $7.5 million project is designed to provide rare species of trout and other fish varieties unhindered access to hundreds of miles of the upstream Clark Fork River and its tributaries.

The fishway is part of PPL Montana's federal operating license in compliance with the Endangered Species Act. The fish passage was dedicated in October, 2010, and after the spring thaw, passed its first fish, a 19-inch, 2.5-pound rainbow trout. The first two bull trout successfully passed through the ladder during April 2011.

The project was developed as a collaborative effort through an inter-agency, multi-disciplinary team composed of PPL Montana; the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Montana Department of Environmental Quality; the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission; the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes; GEI Consultants and others.

Thompson Falls Dam has a seven-unit hydroelectric plant. The units have a total generating capacity of 94 MW.

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