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PPL Montana's Rainbow Dam project providing economic boost in Great Falls and beyond

There’s a surge of excitement in Great Falls these days about the benefits of redeveloping PPL Montana’s Rainbow hydroelectric plant and electric distribution infrastructure.

The $230 million Rainbow Redevelopment project not only will provide more renewable energy and improve passage for fish on the Missouri River, but it’s also creating hundreds of local construction jobs over the next 30 months, spurring business activity and boosting the local economy.

A new powerhouse, with a single 62-megawatt unit, will increase by 70 percent the amount of clean, renewable power that can be generated at the facility. The new unit will replace aging units, installed between 1909 and 1930, which have a combined capacity of 37 megawatts. It will be big enough to power about 45,000 homes.

Additionally, the $55 million Great Falls 100-kilovolt project will improve the reliability and efficiency of the electrical systems connecting the five Great Falls hydro plants to the Northwestern Energy grid. The project will replace more than 23 miles of 100-kilovolt power lines and structures, upgrade the substations at each plant, install a new Northwestern Energy Crooked Falls switchyard to improve transmission system reliability and install a new Generation Control Center to provide remote operation of the Great Falls hydroelectric plants and improve control, communications and reliability.

Click here for photos showing the progress Rainbow. Images are refreshed throughout the day.

Effective June 23, 2010, PPL Montana announces temporary trail and public access closures for safety at Great Falls, North Shore areas due to construction.  

For public safety reasons, PPL Montana, in consultation with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the U.S. Forest Service, has closed the general North Shore Conservation Area between Rainbow Dam and Morony Dam.

The temporary closures are to protect the public from power line construction activities and work associated with the Rainbow redevelopment project. 

The following areas are now closed in the North Shore Conservation Area:

• North Shore area from Rainbow boat launch to Morony, including Sulphur Spring trailhead.
• North Shore Trail — entire length.
• Sulphur Spring trailhead, upper and lower Morony parking lots, and Lower Morony river access.
• Ryan trailhead and upper Ryan parking lot.

The following Great Falls public recreation areas will remain open and are not affected by North Shore Conservation Area closures:

• Rainbow Boat Launch
• Ryan Island and clubhouse
• All South Shore trails
• Lewis and Clark Overlook
• Rainbow Overlook
• Crooked Falls Overlook   
• Black Eagle Memorial Island


River’s Edge Trail maps showing Great Falls trail and access locations are available at Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 4 Headquarters; Great Falls Parks & Recreation; Great Falls Visitor Center; Knicker Biker; Bighorn Wilderness; kiosks along the River’s Edge Trail; and other locations in the city.

Boaters and fishermen can call Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at 406-454-5840 for information about recreation opportunities in the Great Falls area.

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