Columbia River System Operations

Hungry Horse Dam

Hungry Horse Dam

The Hungry Horse Dam project includes the dam, reservoir, powerplant, and switchyard. At the time of its completion the dam was the third largest dam, and the second highest concrete dam, in the world. The project plays an important role for meeting the power needs in the Pacific Northwest and flood risk management. It also contributes to other uses including irrigation and navigation.

Quick Facts

  • Stream: South Fork (SF) of Flathead River
  • Location: Hungry Horse, Montana
  • Owner: Bureau of Reclamation, Pacific Northwest Region
  • Purposes: Flood Risk Management, Irrigation, and Navigation
  • Active Capacity: 3,467,179 acre-feet at pool elevation 3,560 feet
  • Hungry Horse
  • Completed: 1948-1953
  • Height: 564 feet
  • Crest Length: 2,115 feet
  • Dam Type: Concrete Arch
  • Features: powerhouse, spillway
  • Spillway (type/capacity all at pool elevation 3,565 feet): Gated Morning Glory Spillway / 50,000 cfs; hollow-jet valves / 14,000 cfs
Power Plant
  • Generation Capacity: four 107 MW generators with combined hydraulic capacity of 12,000 cfs (transmission limited to 9,000 cfs) at pool elevation 3,560 feet

Flood Risk Management Operations

From January through June, the reservoir level is adjusted for flood risk management space requirements. The amount of reservoir draft or space is dependent on inflow forecasts. The objective of the flood risk management season is to provide enough space in the reservoir for system flood risk management operations in the lower Columbia River, and also to provide local flood protection in the mainstem Flathead River near Columbia Falls, Montana.

Operations for Fish

Hungry Horse Dam is operated to augment flows in the spring,from April to June, to aid spring anadromous fish migrating in the lower Columbia River. From July through September, the project is operated to balance reservoir storage to meet local and downstream fish needs. The reservoir is drafted to supplement flows for juvenile anadromous fish migration in the lower Columbia River, but timing and limit of the draft are also intended to benefit resident fish. Flows from the reservoir are maintained year round to preserve fish habitat in the river below the dam.

Maintenance Activities

Annual maintenance on dam outlet works, spill structures, power plants, etc. is necessary for continued operations. Periodically, extraordinary maintenance activities are necessary to safely operate the project. An example of extraordinary maintenance at Hungry Horse Dam is the modernization of the power plant.

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