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 (link). 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. 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 initiated final design of the proposed modification, which is a state-of-the-practice embankment overlay on the dam with a sand filter and new drainage system, in December of 2019 and are anticipated to continue through the fall of 2021. National Environmental Policy Acts efforts began in early spring 2021 and are anticipated to conclude in September 2021. Public meetings will be held in late fall to discuss project scope and stakeholder impacts. Please see the project schedule link for additional information on the project status.


Submit Public Comment:

Steve Darlinton
Project Manager
(406) 247-7322

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

Last Updated: 8/3/21