Decision notice issued for future of Elbow Lake Dam on the Clearwater River
By angelamontana

Posted: May 29, 2020

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation issued a Decision Notice today to allow natural processes to continue to degrade Elbow Lake Dam.

The rock dam, located along the Clearwater River south of Seeley Lake, has been in place for many years but its existence violates several state and federal water laws. A proposal by both agencies, out for review as part of an environmental assessment late last year, recommended removing the dam in its entirety during the summer of 2020.

However, based on public feedback and continued discussion among agency staff, FWP and DNRC have decided to defer taking that action for the time being and to allow natural processes to continue to degrade the rock dam instead.

Goals of the original proposal to remove the rock dam were to address its legal violations, restore the natural streambed condition, and improve fish and boat passage.

Natural degradation will help further those goals but at a slower pace for now.  Accordingly, future maintenance of the dam by private groups or individuals will not be allowed. FWP and DNRC will monitor the structure, and if unauthorized maintenance continues or if the dam still presents unacceptable barriers to fish or boat passage, it will be removed. The area is important for migratory trout and other fish between the Blackfoot River and the upper Clearwater Basin.

To review the Decision Notice, which includes all public comments on the proposal, go to FWP’s website,, under “News,” then “Recent Public Notices,” Or, request information by contacting Region 2 FWP, 3201 Spurgin Rd., Missoula 59804; by phoning 406-542-5540; or by emailing