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DNRC Headquarters
1539 Eleventh Ave. Helena, MT 59601
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Painted Rocks Reservoir


Painted Rocks 2.jpg

Reservoir Operations

The operation of Painted Rocks Reservoir involves three main parties: DNRC, the Painted Rocks Water Users Association (PRWUA), and the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). Painted Rocks Reservoir stores approximately 32,362 acre-ft (ac-ft) of water, with 25,000 ac-ft marketed to the FWP and PRWUA. In addition, the Bitterroot River Water Commissioner manages the river to insure the apportionment and diversion of decree and contract waters.

DNRC owns the dam and the reservoir area. It is DNRC’s responsibility to insure that the reservoir is filled and operated safely and that water is available for delivery to the contract holders when it is called for.

The shares marketed to the PRWUA (10,000 ac-ft or 2/5th) is primarily used for agricultural purposes. This water can only be released when called for by the PRWUA. If you have any questions regarding the releases of contract irrigation water, please contact the PRWUA.
 
The shares marketed to FWP (15,000 ac-ft or 3/5ths) are used for in-stream flows. This water is released when called for by the FWP. If you have questions regarding the releases of contract fisheries water, please contact the FWP. The local FWP contact in the Bitterroot Valley is Chris Clancy (406-363-7169).

Date Last Updated:

8/27/2021

Reservoir Elevation (FT_MSL)

4689.44

Current Storage (ac-ft)

14,253


Inflows to Painted Rocks

Stream Name

 

Flow Rate (cfs)

Blue Joint Creek

 

14.59

West Fork Bitterroot River

 

38.03

Overwich Creek

 

8.42

Slate Stage

 

4.44

Little Boulder Creek

 

-

Total Inflow

 

65.48 cfs

 
Outflows from Painted Rocks Reservoir

USGS Gauge (ft)

 

Outflow before gate adjustment (cfs)

275

Outflow after gate adjustment (cfs)       

331


Water Contracts

 

Current Flow
(cfs)

Previous Flow Rate
(cfs)

Volume Delivered to Date
(ac-ft)

Volume Remaining
(ac-ft)

Days Remaining at Current Flow

Irrigation   Contracts

(10,000
ac-ft)

-

-

10,000

0

0

In-Stream Fisheries   Contracts

(15,000
ac-ft)

-

-

15,000

0

0

Comments

9-15-2021

The contract water has all been delivered from the reservoir so the outflows will be reduced to match the inflows on Friday 9/17.  

The Fisheries contract water was fully delivered by 9/9 and the Irrigation water was fully delivered by 9/12.

Releases were made at the highest possible useful rate as long as possible in order to have enough head to push the flows thru the river system as long as possible, which has resulted in a lower-than-normal reservoir level. The reservoir has been drafted down as far as possible without affecting the operation of the dam through the winter.

The prolonged drought continues to drastically affect the area stream flows and they have really dropped below the normal flows the last couple of weeks. The current inflows have dropped from the projected flow of 60 cfs to approximately 45 cfs.

Fridays targeted adjustment will reduce the outflows to approximately 50 cfs, and additional adjustments may be needed if the inflows continue to drop.



PAINTED ROCKS DAM CONSTRUCTION PROJECT

MODIFIED RESERVOIR OPERATIONS, RIVER FLOW REDUCTIONS, AND FISHING ACCESS CLOSURES

Project Overview

On August 1, 2021, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) will begin a construction project below Painted Rocks Dam. The purpose of this project is to develop access for future maintenance, repairs, and safety improvements to the lower spillway and outlet area of the dam. 

Planned activities include the construction of a bridge and improvements to the existing primitive road. Approximately one-half mile of the road will be improved to a 16-foot width with gravel surfacing. A single-lane bridge will be constructed immediately downstream of the uppermost boat launch site on the West Fork Bitterroot River.

Construction activities will begin on August 1, 2021, and continue through the winter months. The project is expected to be completed in spring of 2022. Once completed, the public will have vehicular access to the improved road on the east side of the river, and foot access across the new bridge to public lands on the west side of the river. 

Access Advisories

Effective August 1, 2021, the uppermost boat launch downstream of the dam, along with the primitive road which passes near the USGS gaging station, will be closed to public use. Recreationists will find alternative river access at a developed fishing access site located about 3 miles downstream at Bonnie Blue Bridge, on Mud Creek Road.

The school bus turnaround area on West Fork Road (Hwy 473) will also be closed to general public use, though it will be opened at limited times to allow for the drop-off and pick-up of students.

Modified River Flows

To help facilitate construction activities, contract water deliveries and stream flows in the West Fork Bitterroot River will be reduced two (2) weeks earlier than normal.

  • Reductions in dam outflows will begin on September 1, 2021.
  • Flow reductions of approximately 50 CFS will be made every 3-4 days until September 20, 2021.
  • Releases from September 20 through December 31, 2021, will be held at 60 CFS.
  • Additional short-term stream flow reductions to 40 CFS may occur 3 to 4 days per week to accommodate construction activity. These reductions will last less than 4 hours.
  • From January 1 through March 31, 2022, stream flows will be held as low as possible but may reach 90 CFS or higher to manage reservoir levels in advance of spring runoff.

River flows and public access to the river will be fully restored following completion of this project prior to the 2022 runoff cycle. DNRC appreciates your understanding as we work to ensure Painted Rocks Dam remains safe and efficient into the future.

For more information, please contact DNRC at (406) 444-0465. Thank you!


 Exploratory Drilling

The DNRC will be conducting some minor work below the dam as we gather geotechnical information for the design of the proposed bridge across the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. The bridge will provide access to the toe of the dam for safety and maintenance purposes, and for future rehabilitation work on the dam. The bridge construction work is tentatively set to begin late summer or early fall of 2021. The bridge will be crossing the river downstream of the current boat launch area.

In order to accomplish the drilling, equipment will have to ford the river at the boat launch location. To help facilitate the river crossing, the river flows will be temporarily reduced to the 50 cfs range when the equipment fords the river. After the drilling has been completed on the far side of the river, the river flows will be returned to match reservoir inflows.


I want to take time to remind everyone how Painted Rocks Reservoir is managed, and how releases are made. 

  1. The DNRC does not determine when contract water is delivered. The DNRC insures that the reservoir is filled in a timely fashion and kept full until water is requested by the contract holders. Whenever possible, gate adjustments are made mid-week, however they are conditions/contract delivery dependent.

  1. Decisions regarding the timing and size of the contract water releases are made by:

If you are interested, here are the online gages for Blue Joint Creek
( http://data.mbmg.mtech.edu/swamp/reports/GageReport.asp?SiteId=2890940&reqby=P& ) and the West Fork of the Bitterroot above the dam
( http://data.mbmg.mtech.edu/swamp/reports/GageReport.asp?SiteId=2890943&reqby=P& )


Painted Rocks Dam outflow information
The USGS gage link information for the gage immediately below the dam: https://waterdata.usgs.gov/mt/nwis/uv?site_no=12342500  This site has flows that are recorded/displayed every 15 minutes and can be assessed by anyone at any time. Therefore it will give you the most up to date outflow information available for Painted Rocks Dam.

Contacts

DNRC
Water Projects Bureau
1424 9th Ave
Helena, MT 59620-1601
(406) 444-6646

Contact:
Missoula Office
(406) 721-4284


PRWUA Directory