Fresno Safety of Dams

Fresno Dam

This web site was developed to provide information on the ongoing efforts by Reclamation to modify Fresno Dam under the Safety of Dams Act.

Program Overview

Fresno Dam construction was completed in 1939 as an irrigation storage facility under the greater Milk River Project. Fresno was authorized under the National Industrial Recovery Act and was approved by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1935, pursuant to the acts of June 25, 1910, and December 5, 1924. In addition to providing irrigation water to the Milk River Project, Fresno Dam provides incidental benefits for flood control and recreation.

Fresno Dam, located on the Milk River 14 miles west of Havre, Montana, is a compacted earthfill dam with a structural height of 110 feet and a crest length of 2,070 feet. It contains 2,105,000 cubic yards of material. An overflow-type spillway at the north end of the dam provides for a maximum flow of 51,360 cubic feet per second through the concrete-lined channel. The outlet works discharge a maximum of 2,500 cubic feet per second through two 72-inch conduits. Total conservation storage of 91,746 acre-feet is impounded in Fresno Reservoir.

Reclamation initiated a Safety of Dams Corrective Action Study in April 2017 in response to identification by the Reclamation Dam Safety Program of dam failure risks above Reclamation’s Public Protection Guidelines. Historical settlement of the Fresno Dam foundation and lack of current state of the practice dam filter and seepage collection system are driving these concerns. In addition, to ensure risks are as low as reasonably practicable, an incidental effort to add spillway joint state-of-the-art defensive measures was added to the dam safety project. Interim measures including increased visual inspections and stockpiling of filter materials at the dam have been implemented. There are currently no operational restrictions at Fresno Dam.

Current Status

Reclamation and NW Construction are placing the lower half of the sand, gravel, and toe drain system during the 2024 construction season. The Fresno Dam Road across the dam will likely be closed starting on Aug 15 to complete the tie-in to the spillway wall. Exact closure dates will be communicated later. The Tailwater Fishing Access Site below the dam will be closed throughout the construction project to ensure public safety. There will be access to the river via the north side of the dam. All other fishing access sites will remain open throughout the project.

Timelapse Videos


Steve Darlinton
Project Manager
(406) 247-7322

Bureau of Reclamation
Montana Area Office
PO Box 30137
Billings, MT 59101
(406) 247-7300

Last Updated: 5/9/24