Montana Gov. Steve Bullock approved on Monday a significant amount of funding to improve the Ruby Dam.
“Ruby Dam is classified as a high-hazard dam, because if it were to fail, it would likely cause loss of life downstream,” Bullock said in a press release. “Last year, we upgraded the spillway, which didn’t have adequate capacity and was deteriorating. Now it’s time to finish the job.”
The governor awarded a $6.7 million contract to Johnson-Wilson. Johnson-Wilson is a Helena-based construction company that employs 25 to 30 full-time staff. The company specializes in heavy civil construction work that includes dams, fish hatcheries and water treatment systems.
“Maintaining our public infrastructure pays dividends several times over,” Bullock said. “We create good-paying jobs for Montana workers. We enhance public safety. And we ensure that benefits for agriculture, recreation, fisheries and wildlife continue for the long term.”
Ruby Dam is owned by Montana’s Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. It was constructed in 1938 and stores 37,642 acre-feet of water. Ruby Water Users Association operates the dam, which serves 149 users.
In 2012, the DNRC replaced and enlarged the spillways. Johnson-Wilson also completed this phase of the renovation project. The next phase of renovations will involve replacing the dam’s aging outlet structure. The governor said the project is slated to be finished in the summer of 2014, with the project starting this upcoming fall.
“The impacts of a failure at Ruby would be felt as far downstream as Canyon Ferry Reservoir,” Bullock said. “Making these improvements will extend the dam’s useful life for another 50 to 75 years.”
Ruby Reservoir is a popular fishing spot in the valley. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks reported 9,338 days of use by anglers from March 2011 to February 2012.
The reservoir is home to a diverse trout fishery, which includes west-slope cutthroat trout, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout and Artic grayling.
The dam is located just outside of Alder and is open year around with the exception of the spillway area being closed to fishing.