Flower Creek Dam Completed Near Libby

Contractors will slowly fill the reservoir behind the dam over the next three weeks

By Justin Franz
Flower Creek Dam. Courtesy Paul Burnham

After years of planning, months of construction and millions of dollars, contractors completed the Flower Creek Dam near Libby earlier this month.

This week, contractors are doing cleanup work around the dam located just south of the town. They also began filling the reservoir behind the dam, a task that Morrison-Maierle project and construction manager Paul Burnham expects to complete by the middle of March.

The new Flower Creek Dam will hold back the city’s water supply and replaces an old concrete structure that six years ago was deemed inadequate. At the time, Morrison-Maierle completed a core sample test of the arch dam and found its concrete strength was less than 1,000 pounds per square inch. Normal strength is between 3,000 and 4,000 pounds per square inch.

Engineers said the dam, built in 1946, could have been compromised by a major seismic event in the area. If that happened, Flower Creek and Libby could have flooded.

Libby Mayor Doug Roll said the completion of the new dam was a long time coming.

“I don’t think the city has ever taken on a project this big and we’re just excited to have it done,” Roll said.

The new dam cost more than $11.5 million and is part of a large water system improvement project the city of Libby has been undertaking for the last few years. The dam was primarily funded with loans and grants from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development fund. Roll said water rates have risen in recent years to help cover the loan. Other aspects of the water system improvement project include water main repairs throughout the city.

Construction of the new dam began in 2014. Completion of the project was delayed by a few weeks in December after floodwaters washed away thousands of yards of soil near the dam. Burnham said the dam itself was not damaged in the flood and any costs related to the incident were covered by the contractor’s insurance.

Burnham said in the coming weeks, as the water slowly rises behind the dam, engineers would inspect the structure to make sure it is sound.

Residents can learn more about the dam project at libbywaterprojects.com.

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