FEC, MDT and USFS working together to prevent future power outage 

Map of tree removal site

FEC, MDT and USFS working together to prevent future power outage 

This story has been updated here: UPDATE: MT 35 closure rescheduled to Thursday, February 1 – Flathead Electric Cooperative

Flathead Electric Cooperative (FEC), the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), and the US Forest Service (USFS) will partner to support efforts removing a dead tree on Montana Highway 35 (MT 35), south of Woods Bay, near Fishing Rock Lane, on Monday, January 29, anticipated to occur from 10 a.m. to noon. This narrow area of MT 35 will be closed to traffic while work is occurring. Travelers will need to seek alternate routes.  

Two cranes and multiple crews will assist with the tree’s removal. The closure is weather-dependent and will be rescheduled in case of high winds or plowing priorities as required by MDT. If the closure is rescheduled, the local press will be asked to share the news and MDT’s variable message signs on MT 35, near Polson and Bigfork, will be updated. In this case, information will also be posted on FEC, MDT, and USFS websites. 

The nearby Bear Dance Trail, USFS Trail #76, will also be closed in both directions on the day in question. 

The tree that will be removed is over 110 feet tall and located on the east side of the road at approximately mile marker 23. The tree, dead for many years, has significant rot around its base. Without removal, it is expected to fall across MT 35. Its removal will enhance safety for the traveling public. 

It is also highly likely that, if not removed, the tree will fall into the power lines on the west side of MT 35.  Amanda Opp, FEC Integrated Services Manager, shared, “The tree’s location above MT 35 makes it extremely difficult to safely remove. However, if it were to fall, the resulting power outage would likely be prolonged, because of the limited access we have to bring in new power poles and re-string wire. Being proactive is the right thing to do for the public, and greatly decreases the risk of the tree falling into the wires and sparking a wildfire.” 

The tree is home to an unoccupied osprey nest. Multiple biologists from federal and state agencies were consulted about the tree’s removal and approved the same. Opp noted, “From the start, we were sensitive to the osprey nest, and reached out to the USFS, the US Biological Station at Flathead Lake, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP) to ensure there were no nesting osprey in the tree, and that if the tree was removed, there would be suitable options in the area for any osprey that may return in the spring.” Ospreys migrate seasonally and are not expected to return to Northwest Montana until April. The tree’s removal is not expected to impact the birds. However, the nest will be inspected again on the day of the removal. 

A brief power outage may occur during the road closure. Co-op members can receive updates at the online Outage Center: Outage Center – Flathead Electric Cooperative. 

The public is encouraged to contact Joan Redeen at 406-396-1978 with any questions or comments regarding the road closure. Motorists can stay informed about road status on the day in question by visiting 511mt.net or downloading the MDT 511 app on their phone.  

Courtney Stone

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