Fifteen years before the Hungry Horse Dam and 37 years before the Libby Dam, at the tail end of the Great Depression, the Kerr Dam was completed five miles south of Flathead Lake. Today, it is one of the oldest federally licensed hydroelectric projects operating in the United States, generating enough energy to power nearly 150,000 homes. But if the facility’s electricity production has long been reliable, the question of who is in charge of that production has been less certain.
Now, more than 80 years after the dam was first licensed and in the wake of decades of legal wrangling, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are poised to take over full ownership for the first time. In exercising their ownership option, expected to come to fruition in the fall of 2015, they will become the first tribe in the country to own and operate a major hydroelectric power plant.