CSKT to Commemorate Dam Acquisition

The CSKT is hosting the event at the Joe McDonald gymnasium at the Salish Kootenai College campus

By Beacon Staff

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes invite the community to participate in the commemoration of the tribal acquisition of the Kerr Hydroelectric Project on Sept. 5.

The CSKT is hosting the event at the Joe McDonald gymnasium at the Salish Kootenai College campus, 58138 U.S. Highway 93 in Pablo. The event is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Traditional regalia is welcome, and dancers in regalia are welcome to participate in the opening procession of the event.

The CSKT will become the first tribal government to own and operate a major hydroelectric facility. The CSKT paid nearly $18.3 million for the facility, which will be operated by Energy Keepers, Inc., a tribally owned corporation that will sell the electricity it produces on the open market.

The dam, named after the president of Montana Power when it was built, will be renamed, and the CSKT collected ideas from the community in the months leading up to the acquisition. Finley said the Tribal Council has not yet decided on a new name.

“This is a milestone for our community,” said Vernon Finley, tribal council chairman.

“The construction of the Kerr Project in the 1930s marked a time of significant cultural and economic changes for our Tribes.  Today as we look to the future, we anticipate that the Project, which once exemplified destruction to our way of life, may now help restore and revitalize our Tribes as we continue the important work of protecting our reserved and aboriginal lands, caring for our people, and preserving our cultural resources.”

Finley’s great-grandfather, Koostahtah, was chief of the Kootenai when Kerr Dam was built in the 1930s.

In 1985, FERC issued the dam’s operating license to both Montana Power and the tribes to settle a contested proceeding. Montana Power, which sold its utility assets in 1997, was to operate the project for at least 30 years, after which the tribes would have the option to buy.

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