Ruby Dam fish access site open, first phase of dam work complete

The first stage of repairing the Ruby Dam south of Alder is complete and the fishing access directly below the dam is now open again after being closed nearly two years.

The repairs to the Ruby Dam started in the summer of 2010 and mainly focused on the spillway, which was in such a state of disrepair that it couldn’t function properly.

Thanks to the repairs, the dam is now functioning fine, said Dan Doornbos, Alder rancher and member of the Ruby Water Users Association.

This has been a dry spring and irrigators are irrigating now. However, unlike previous years, they are still able to store water for later in the summer in the Ruby Reservoir, Doornbos said.

“We’re back to functioning as we were prior to the spillway problems,” he said.

The next phase of the project will replace the outlet works in the dam, said Kevin Smith, with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation water projects bureau in Helena. However, the state funding for the project comes from revenues collected from electrical generation at the DNRC-owned dam at Toston on the Missouri River. This fund needs some building up before the next phase of the Ruby Dam work can begin, Smith said.

“The next stage is to generate revenue and save money and go after the outlet works modifications,” he said.

He anticipates construction on the outlet to begin in the spring of 2014. Unlike the spillway work that could extend over a couple of years, the outlet project will need to be done in one construction season, Smith said.

The two phases of construction will ultimately cost a total of more than $15 million. Part of the money – about $2 million – for that is coming from the Ruby Water Users Association, which took out a loan for their portion.

The spillway construction was about $6.5 million and the outlet reconstruction will be about $5.5 million. The rest of the money was used for construction oversight and design, Smith said.

Initially, the project was slated to cost about $12 million, but a variety of things pushed the price up, including some spillway redesign and material costs, he said.

The Ruby Dam was constructed in 1938 to serve irrigation needs in the Ruby Valley. It stores more than 37,000 acre-feet of water and serves about 191 total water users. The water is conveyed primarily down two main canal systems, the Vigilante Canal and West Bench Canal.

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