Generating capacity: 194 megawatts
43069 Kerr Dam Road
Polson, MT 59860
Kerr Dam is a three-unit hydroelectric plant on the Flathead River about five miles southwest of Polson and the natural outlet of Flathead Lake. The units have a total generating capacity of 194 megawatts. (One megawatt can satisfy the average energy needs of 750 households.)
The dam, which began operation in 1938, is 541 feet long and 205 feet high. Its installation raised the level of Flathead Lake by 10 feet over the natural lake outlet. The dam’s 28-mile-long reservoir has a storage capacity of 1.2 million acre-feet. Kerr Dam is classified as a “storage generation” project because it uses the water stored in its reservoir to generate electricity.
Flathead Lake, which lies in the Flathead Valley of northwest Montana, is the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. The lake is 28 miles long, up to 15 miles wide and more than 300 feet deep.
Several state parks and lakeshore communities offer boat launches and marinas on the lake, enabling water sports enthusiasts to fully enjoy its 200 square miles of surface area. A number of businesses offer boat tours of the lake or rent many types of watercraft, including canoes, kayaks, windsurfers, hydro bikes, sailing and fishing boats. Serious anglers can use state-of-the art equipment to locate trophy Mackinaw in the depths of Flathead Lake, which is home to a number of other types of fish as well.
Wild Horse Island, the largest island in the lake, is a wildlife refuge for more than 75 kinds of birds as well as deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes and bear. The appropriately named Bird Islands are frequented by geese, ospreys, herons and eagles, among other types of birds.
Kerr Dam is operated under a joint license with PPL Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Nation. The CSKT have the option of purchasing and taking over the operation of Kerr Dam in 2015.
In December 2005, Kerr Dam became one of only three industrial sites in Montana to hold the "Star" certification in the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Voluntary Protection Program.
The program recognizes companies that go beyond compliance to protect worker health and safety. The VPP Star certification is the highest safety recognition given within the program.
Kerr Dam is one of two PPL Montana dams west of the Continental Divide. The Flathead River empties into the Clark Fork River, which in turn empties into the Columbia River. The Columbia then empties into the Pacific Ocean.