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

The embankment dam modification design and specification package is complete. The Solicitation package for prospective offerors is available at: On-site construction for the embankment modification is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2023. The spillway modification design will begin in fall of 2023 and is scheduled to begin construction in 2025 or 2026, depending on embankment construction progress.

Repayment contracts are being sent out to all Water Users in the Milk River Project and the following public notice was issued:

  • The Bureau of Reclamation intends to execute safety of dams contracts with water users on the Milk River Project in accordance with the Reclamation Safety of Dams Act of November 2, 1978 (Pub. L. 95-578) as amended. These contracts will provide for repayment of a total of 15 percent of the reimbursable costs of the safety of dams modifications. To provide written comments, request additional information, or view a copy of the proposed contracts, please contact Ms. Margaret Ventling, Repayment Specialist, at (406) 247-7488 or If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a speech disability, please dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services.


Steve Darlinton
Project Manager
(406) 247-7322

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

Last Updated: 9/28/22