DNRC is eligible to receive significant funding under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the next five years to improve Dam Safety in Montana. The purpose of this webpage is to provide information to the Montana Dam Safety Community. Please keep checking back as we will provide frequent updates.

General Information

DNRC held a listening session in January, 2024 to get input from the Montana Dam Safety Community, on how to best utilize this rare opportunity. If you missed the listening session, we encourage to watch the Listening Session Video or view the Listening Session Slides for more information on this funding opportunity. 
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded DNRC an $893,165 grant for improvement of Dam Safety in Montana on April 29, 2024. This grant is the first of five consecutive yearly grants, available to states as part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. To smartly utilize the funding, DNRC developed a Five-Year plan based on feedback received from the Dam Safety Community from surveys and a listening session held in January 2024. 
  •  If you own a dam with a reservoir that provides public benefits, DNRC will consider sharing the costs of completing your Five-Year Dam Evaluation. DNRC will contact owners with five-year dam inspections/evaluations due this summer soon. 
  • DNRC will hire engineering contractors to work one-on-one with dam owners to produce quality dam Operation & Maintenance (O&M) Manuals. This may involve obtaining bathymetry and updating stage / storage / discharge tables; important information for dam owners to optimize water distribution.  
  • The Montana Association of Dam and Canal Systems (MADCS) is an important resource for dam owners. Comprised mainly of irrigators and small municipalities, financial support is needed to continue their mission. DNRC will use the grant to ensure continued success of the organization. For more information, please go to MADCS.org
  • Dam owners are responsible for inspecting their dams between five-year inspections. During the listening session, dam owners asked for Improved Owner Inspection Tools to assist with this task. DNRC plans to hire a contractor to produce improved inspection forms and templates. In addition, DNRC will purchase outlet conduit cameras and confined space entry equipment, locating these in regional offices for dam owners to borrow. 
  • There is broad agreement that Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) need improvement. Many dams have old, hard to read evacuation maps, and the federal template used to develop the EAPs is too complex to be practical in an emergency. In the EAP Modernization Project DNRC intends to hire engineering contractors to work one-on-one with dam owners and county emergency managers to produce EAPs specific to the dam, the county, the downstream area, and the dam owner.
  • DNRC will hire engineering contractors to complete much of the work funded with this grant.
  • Five-Year Dam Evaluation Project: For 2024, DNRC will contract with the dam owners’ engineers. This grant is not set up to pass funding through to the dam owners. For subsequent years, DNRC will investigate other options to make this process more efficient. 
  • For the O&M Enhancement Project and EAP Modernization Project, the general plan is to hire a contractor this summer to develop a scope, schedule, cost estimates and prioritize dams. Over the remaining four years of this funding opportunity, DNRC will be hiring contractors to work one-on-one with dam owners (and emergency responders) to produce quality O&M manuals and functional EAPs.
  • The Montana Association of Dam & Canal Systems also provides valuable training opportunities to engineers! This grant funding assures continued financial support of the MADCS annual workshop.
  • Montana’s 1997-1998 extreme precipitation estimation studies will be updated for use in spillway evaluations and design.
  • DNRC will increase training opportunities for engineers by bringing industry leading experts to Montana to teach courses on outlet conduit design, geotechnical modeling, spillway design, and other important dam topics.
Note:  DNRC will be conducting another Qualification Based Selection for engineering services in the fall of 2024.    Please refer to:  https://dnrc.mt.gov/Water-Resources/WOB/Contracting_DNRC_WOB
  • Dam Emergency Action plans will be improved to reflect resources available within the county to respond to dam emergencies.
  • Evacuation maps will be modernized and improved in collaboration with county emergency managers.
  • DNRC facilitated dam emergency exercises will be available to counties, upon request.

Grant Projects

If you own a DNRC regulated high hazard dam with a reservoir that provides public benefits, DNRC will consider sharing the costs of completing your Five-Year Dam Evaluation

To request assistance, please email or mail a letter to DNRC Dam Safety Program Manager Michele Lemieux (mlemieux@mt.gov) describing the public benefits of the reservoir and details of the planned Five Year Evaluation.  Instructions and other important information are contained in the following document: 

Five Year Dam Evaluation Expense Assistance Request Instructions

Important Information
  • The goal of this program is to provide financial assistance to owners of DNRC regulated high hazard dams with Five Year Evaluation expenses, as set forth in the Administrative Rules of Montana ARM 36.14 Five Year Dam Evaluations. Funding is through a FEMA grant to DNRC.
  • To be eligible for the funding, the dam/reservoir must provide clear public benefits. Wildlife habitat without associated public access does not qualify as a public benefit for this program.
  • Dam owners are responsible for expenses related to the visual inspection and other components of the Operation Permit Application (EAP & O&M update). DNRC will pay for expenses related to the Engineer’s Evaluation & Report.
  • Contract values are limited to 40 billable hours. Dam owners are responsible for expenses in excess of 40 hours.
  • Funds are limited and DNRC reserves the right to prioritize requests. Submitting a request does not guarantee funding will be available.
  • An engineer’s failure to perform does not relieve the dam owner of their responsibility to provide an adequate Five-Year Evaluation report. It is important for dam owners to verify your engineer has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to complete a Five-Year Evaluation. For more information on hiring an engineer, please refer to: https://dnrc.mt.gov/Water-Resources/Dam-Safety/For-Dam-Owners

Questions?  Please refer to: Questions you may have about the Five Year Evaluation Expense Assistance Program.  You may also contact any Dam Safety Program staff member; our contact information is listed at the bottom of this page.

OM Enhancement
EAP Modernization

DNRC has templates and information available to help dam owners conduct their annual inspections on the following web page: For-Dam-Owners

Dam Owners have requested improved resources for documenting the inspections, including easier to use inspection and photo forms, the ability to customize the forms according to the dam and developing apps for tablets and phones that make recording an inspection easier. Other requests include developing improved methods for archive and documenting photos and providing confined space entry forms and information. 

To Dam Owners:  What are your requests?  What can DNRC do to make your annual owner inspections more efficient?   Please email us your ideas (contact info below).  

John Connors, PE - Water Operations Bureau Chief          (406) 444-6816

Michele Lemieux, PE - Dam Safety Program Manager      (406) 444-6613

Chad Hill - Dam Safety Engineering Specialist                   (406) 444-1358

Sam Johnson, PE - Dam Safety Construction Engineer     (406) 247-4423

Brent Zundel, PE - Engineering Services Supervisor         (406) 556-4508

Linda Winn - Billings Regional Engineer                             (406) 256-7660

Peri Turk, PE - Helena Regional Engineer                          (406) 444-1872

Ryan Murphy, EI - Lewistown Regional Engineer              (406) 535-1926

Larry Schock - Missoula Regional Engineer                       (406) 542-5885