Kerr Dam

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Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam
SQK Dam DSC 3657.jpg
Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam (2018)
LocationFlathead Indian Reservation, Lake County, Montana, USA
Construction began1930
Opening date1938
Operator(s)Energy Keepers Inc., Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes
Dam and spillways
ImpoundsFlathead River
Height205 ft (62 m)
Length751 ft (229 m)
Total capacity1,217,000 acre⋅ft (1.501 km3)
Catchment area8,587 sq mi (22,240 km2)
Surface area191.5 sq mi (496 km2)
Power Station
Commission date1938-1954[1]
Turbines3 units
Installed capacity208 MW[2]
Annual generation1,100,000,000 KWh annually

The Kerr Dam, officially known as the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam, is a concrete gravity-arch dam located at river mile 72 of the Flathead River, increasing the size of Flathead Lake near Polson, Montana. The dam was designed for hydroelectricity but also serves recreational uses. The dam was originally named after Frank Kerr, president of the Montana Power Company at the time of the dam's completion in 1938;[3] however, during the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe's celebration of their acquisition of the dam on September 5, 2015, the Tribal Council announced that the dam's name would henceforth be changed to reflect its new ownership.[4]


Water flowing out of the Salish-Kootenai Dam out of only one of the several doors

In 1930, construction began on the dam by Rocky Mountain Power. A year later in 1931, a lack of funding from the Great Depression caused construction to halt. Montana State Treasurer James Brett went to Atlanta in 1934 to ask President Franklin Roosevelt for $5,000,000 to complete the dam. Knowing that the area was in desperate need of jobs, Roosevelt gave Brett the money and he came home to a hero's welcome. In 1936, the Montana Power Company restarted the project and completed it in 1938. The dam only raised Flathead Lake by 10 feet so it is not completely responsible for the reservoir. The dam's hydro power plant consists of three units that receive water from three different penstocks 865 feet upstream.[5]

Joint operation and change of ownership[edit]

A rainbow forming over the Salish-Kootenai Dam in Montana

The dam and its related hydroelectric project are located inside the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation, and operated jointly by NorthWestern Energy and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Today, with an installed capacity of 208 MW, it provides both power—enough for about 147,000 homes—and over $9 million in annual revenue for the tribes. NorthWestern Energy acquired the power plant from PPL Montana, LLC (the successor to the Montana Power Company) in 2015.

On September 4, 2015, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) successfully paid the conveyance price of $18.2 million to purchase the Kerr Hydroelectric Project from NorthWestern Energy,[6] transferring its ownership to the tribally-owned Energy Keepers, Inc (EKI). CSKT and EKI officially celebrated their acquisition of the dam on September 5, 2015 with a ceremony held at Salish Kootenai College.[7]

Séliš Ksanka Ql’ispé Dam, formerly known as Kerr Dam, was completed in 1938 and dams the Flathead River a few miles below Flathead Lake southwest of Polson, Montana (2017)

In literature[edit]

The plot of the novel "Wind from an Enemy Sky" by D’Arcy McNickle is centered around the construction of the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Clock ticking down to Kerr Dam's historic takeover by Indian tribes". Missoulian. 25 April 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  2. ^ "NorthWest Hydro Acquisition" (PDF). NorthWest Energy. p. 3. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  3. ^ Kerr Dam, PPL Montana
  4. ^ Streamed live at
  5. ^ Kerr Dam Essay
  6. ^ McDonald, Rob (2015-09-04). "Energy Keepers, Inc., successfully pays conveyance price for Kerr Dam". Energy Keepers, Inc. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  7. ^ Lipbscomb, Brian (2015-08-27). "We are ready: Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes prepare to assume control of Kerr Dam". Char-Koosta News. Char-Koosta News. Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  8. ^ Vince Devlin (2012-03-28). "Film shares Arlee teacher's success at instilling tribal perspective". The Missoulian. Retrieved 2012-09-06.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°40′36″N 114°14′03″W / 47.67667°N 114.23417°W / 47.67667; -114.23417