LIHI Certificate #31 - Boulder Creek Project, Montana

The Boulder Creek Project is located in northwest Montana, within Lake County, and its entire drainage is within the Flathead Indian Reservation. Boulder Creek drains into Flathead Lake from the Mission Range of the Rocky Mountains. This facility is owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and is managed and operated by S&K Holding Company (SKHC), which is a for profit business development corporation, wholly owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are comprised of the Bitterroot Salish, the Pend d'Oreille, and the Kootenai Tribes. In 1855, the Hellgate Treaty formed the Flathead Reservation and the Tribes were relocated to their current home. The Flathead Reservation contains 1.3 million acres but over 500 thousand acres passed out of Tribal or Tribal Member ownership with the advent of homesteading in the early 1900s. The Tribes are now located on the Flathead Reservation in Northwestern Montana and they are a federally recognized Tribe that is governed by Tribal Council.

In 1982, the Tribes built Boulder Hydro as a means of promoting economic development. SKHC was created in May 1992 under the laws and constitution of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The Tribal Council serves as the Shareholder for SKHC. A five member Board of Directors appointed biannually by the Shareholder provides direction. The mission statement of the company is:

“Promote economic independence by maximizing economic opportunities for the Tribes and the Tribal Membership in a culturally appropriate manner.”

SKHC was assigned management authority for Boulder Hydro in 1996 in order to provide operating revenues to support economic development initiatives. SKHC also operates a storage facility, a botanical business that sells products over the Internet. SKHC also provides technical assistance to Tribal Member entrepreneurs and Tribal Enterprises for business startups and support. SKHC owns several Tribal Enterprises that function as affiliate companies to SKHC. These are Sovereign Leasing and Finance, S & K Environmental Restoration, S & K Marina, and Flathead Lath and Dowel. The businesses help fulfill economic niches that help promote the economic development of the Tribes.

The project operates under a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) exemption (FERC # 7086) issued in 1984. The facility has an installed capacity of 350 KW. The facility was designed and developed for the Tribes between 1982 and 1984 and went online in December of 1984. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) on behalf of the Tribes provided oversight for the project.

Boulder Hydro is a run of river facility with a maximum flow of eight (8) cubic feet per second diverted to the powerhouse from the stream. The diversion creates an impoundment with a maximum of 0.15 acres surface area with a gross storage capacity of 0.30 acre-feet and a net storage capacity of 0.025 acre-feet. The diversion and intake area occupy 203.36 square feet. The entire penstock is buried under ground, while the powerhouse and tailrace occupy an area of 800 square feet. The number of acres contained in a 200-foot zone extending around the entire impoundment is approximately 5 acres.

Boulder Creek flows much of its journey to Flathead Lake underground. A portion of Boulder surfaces approximately 100 yards upstream from the impoundment. The diversion utilizes all of the flow in all but the highest-level periods occurring during the spring runoff or during a significant runoff event. Even with full dewatering of the stream, water flow reappears less than 10 yards below the diversion structure even in the lowest flow periods of the year.

Boulder Creek has an A-1 water quality certification and has maintained that certification through construction and all the years of operation of the Boulder Hydro facility. The facility has never had an incident that has endangered its compliance with the Clean Water Act. Both the facility area and the downstream reach continue to meet all A-1 classification standards.

In addition, as part of the original agreement for an easement to the powerhouse location, the Tribes installed a collection pipe and built a pump house to serve local residents as their primary source of drinking water for their homes. This location is approximately 40 yards downstream from the powerhouse and pumps Boulder Creek water to approximately 10 homes in the vicinity. Boulder Creek, to this day, maintains extremely high water quality and has been proposed as a potential water supply for bottled water.

Project Name Boulder Creek
LIHI Certificate No. 31
LIHI Certificate Term October 24, 2015 - October 24, 2020, extended to July 31, 2021
Owner Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, S&K Holding Company, Inc.
State Montana
Location Located at river mile 1.0 on Boulder Creek, in Lake County in northwest Montana.
Installed Capacity 0.35 MW
Average Annual Generation 1,171 MWh
Facility Type Run-of-river
FERC No. P-7086 exempt 1983

Certification History

April 14, 2021: The Low Impact Hydropower Institute (LIHI) has received a complete recertification application from The Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes for the Boulder Creek Project located on Boulder Creek in Montana.

LIHI is seeking comment on this application. Comments that are directly tied to specific LIHI criteria (flows, water quality, fish passage, etc.) will be most helpful, but all comments will be considered. Comments may be submitted to the Institute by e-mail at with "Boulder Creek Project Comments” in the subject line, or by mail addressed to the Low Impact Hydropower Institute, 1167 Massachusetts Avenue, Office 407, Arlington, MA 02476. Comments must be received at the Institute on or before 5 pm Eastern time on June 13, 2021 to be considered. All comments will be posted to the web site and the applicant will have an opportunity to respond. Any response will also be posted.

The complete application can be found below.

April 12, 2016: LIHI Executive Director Michael J. Sale, using authority delegated from the LIHI Governing Board, has certified that the Boulder Creek Hydroelectric Project (FERC No. P-7086) satisfies the LIHI Certification Criteria. A Preliminary Decision was announced on March 4, 2016, and a 30-day appeal period was open through April 4, 2016. No requests for appeal were received.

The effective certification date for the Boulder Creek Project is October 24, 2015 for a five (5) year term, which will expire on October 24, 2020.

October 22, 2015:  On October 2, 2015, the Low Impact Hydropower Institute received a complete application for a new term of Low Impact Certification for the Boulder Creek Hydroelectric project.  The application materials can be found below.

June 19, 2015: The Boulder Creek Hydroelectric project has been granted an extension of the current certificate term. The new expiration date is December 31, 2015. See ExtensionLetter_2015Recert for explanation below.

January 24, 2008: Boulder Creek Hydroelectric Project has been certified as low impact for an eight year term, effective October 24, 2007 and expiring October 24, 2015.

October 24, 2007: The S & K Holding Company, Inc., a company owned by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, submitted an application for certification of the Boulder Creek Project. A public comment period will be open for 60 days, until December 24, 2007.