In 1905, Montana Senator Paris Gibson and local citizens developed a vision: irrigate the land and generate hydroelectric power to spark enterprise and sprout rural Montana communities.

Montana citizens came together to build a number of irrigation and development projects in the area and Gibson Dam stands today as a great accomplishment. The Dam was engineered and built for hydroelectric capacity but the plans to construct a powerhouse fell-through in 1928.

dam construction dam construction

The jet flow valves release water from the reservoir into the Sun River downstream. A portion of this water is diverted into a 900+ -mile network of irrigation canals which bring water to farmers in Montana.

Today, the irrigation water flowing through the valves is an untapped source of electricity and ultimately, a source of community income and rural vitality.

Those early settlers’ vision to generate electricity on the Gibson Dam was possible then. It is even more feasible today, though it still requires community support. Developing the hydropower potential of Gibson will support environmental, public revenue, and rural communities for generations.

Dam with flow1

old and new

It is important to note the hydroelectric facility only uses water released during normal irrigation operations. This water will pass through turbines that generate electricity. The water will be released back into the river immediately below the dam as is currently the practice.

When the project is built, Gibson Hydro will bury its proposed power line in the Sun River Canyon. Additionally, Gibson Hydro will also bury several miles of existing overhead power lines in the canyon to the benefit visual and wildlife resources. Burying the lines in the canyon will also decrease the chance of power outages and unplanned wildfire.

Gibson Hydro originally proposed four power line corridor alternatives for consideration. After multiple years of government, stakeholder and public input the preferred alternative is to utilize the existing power line corridor extending from the Dam eastward where it connects to the electrical grid.

road with powerline 1535x438