The Snag Hole
Great to see old friend Peter Matthiessen here in Ennis...author of "The Snow Leopard", "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse", "Killing Mr. Watson" and many others. He writes about So. Florida and the Chokoloskee-Everglades country like no other. Three time winner of the National Book Award...and he casts a mean dry fly!
photo by Anni Shores
Happy fifth year anniversary to Pennsylvania Power and Light. It was five year ago today, August 30, 2008, that your Hebgen Dam stop logs busted up sending a 4000 cfs wall of water down the Madison River that resembled the Banzai Pipline.
A lot has happened in the last five years:
Osama Bin Laden was snuffed out.
Andy Rooney passed away.
The Iraq War came to an end.
The New York Giants won two Super Bowls.
Facebook reached over 1 billion users
The new 1776 foot tall World Trade Center tower was completed
I-phones and I-pads have become a way of life for millions.
A lot has happened...but fixing the Hebgen Dam isn't one of them.
The flows have pinballed...the water temps have risen...there have been talks, meetings, press releases, newletters, texts, tweets, photo-ops, emails, proclamations, promises...next year, next year, next year...but next year never comes...the dam is still broken. The Hebgen Dam has become like the old Brooklyn Dodgers..."Dem Bums"..."we'll beat the Yankees...wait til next year."
The old grandpa brown trout in the Madison is telling his kids and grandkids, "hang in there chillins, help is on the way."
And mama rainbow in the riffle is keeping the family cool and in the shade for as long as she can hold out.
And there is a very small group of Rocky Mountain Whitefish that still remember "The Great Flood of '08".
With the water temperatures in the Madison rising every year, how long will it be before "next year" is too late? A lot is riding on this one, PP&L. Let's make this anniversary the last one.
Generations are depending on you.
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The Madison River Foundation is looking for a new leader...someone who cares about the river more than playing politics...someone who will get down to the core issues: protecting flows, protecting water temps, protecting the trout. It's not easy...but you are out there...the right person to lead...the right person to fight...the right person to take the challenge.
All of us who love the river and the trout are hoping that person will come forward. We are all tied to the river in some way...work, play, beauty. It's time to put away personal agendas...if the Madison River thrives, we all thrive.
I have a good feeling for the future. Let's roll!
"The water level on the upper is and has been stable for over a week now. 776 cfs out of Hebgen which translates to just under 1000 at Varney. This is lower than the long-term median average but not a bad level all things considered. Speaking of this…there may be some very positive changes in the works starting as early as this fall/winter. PP&L has recently indicated that they are considering some in-house changes to their Madison River management policies. In essence they will be looking at running the flows in a completely different and reactive way as has been been discussed here (and elsewhere). Their plan, apparently, is to run the flow out of Hebgen at the current rate (or close to it) all winter and keep most of the water in the reservoir instead of drawing it down as has been their practice. They will then react to real-time, on the ground conditions of snowpack and water content. They are talking about doing away with the 10% flow increase rule for the spring months and potentially upping the maximum over-Quake flow rate to 4000 cfs or a hair higher if possible. In essence they’re considering running the flows here more like a “real” undammed river would operate…moderate and stable over-winter flow and higher, runoff-like flows in the spring. The light bulbs seem to be flickering to life…Hallelujah! We’re not holding our collective breaths yet but it’s definitely a very good sign. Believe it or not (and some folks continue to choose not to believe it) this could be HUGE for this river and this fishery. If they actually make these changes and once they get the dam fixed (a whole other point of contention here) yearly spring flushing flows, cooler water temps and potentially higher flows here through most summers could mean some dramatic changes in the health and numbers of not only fish but fish food as well. We’ll be keeping a very close ear to this."
Shouldn't we be getting this kind of seriously vital input from the Madison River Foundation instead of a local boat rower? Isn't that the core reason for the existence of the Foundation? To Preserve, Protect and Enhance? THE HEBGEN DAM IS FAR AND AWAY THE SINGLE MOST CRITICAL FACTOR FOR THE HEALTH OF THE UPPER MADISON RIVER AND ITS TROUT. Nothing else is a close second.
Why doesn't the Foundation have someone like Lum agressively posting river info on a daily or weekly basis, especially during the important summer fishing season? Oops, I forgot...they did have that person on their board...his name was Mike Lum and he resigned. Why?
You can follow Mike Lum's comments in the River Reports section of the Madison River Fishing Company's website:
Richard Lessner has resigned his postion as Exec. Dir. of the Madison River Foundation, a non-profit he started when he rolled into town in 2003 and said "what a great idea". It's not the first time Mr. Lessner has resigned or been fired from his job.
In 1992, Lessner got in trouble for writing an article in the Arizona Republic newspaper ripping the victims of Hurricane Andrew in So. Florida, one of the worst natural disasters in the history of the U.S., calling them "snivelers", whiners and ingrates. Hurricane Andrew left 65 people dead and caused over $26.5 billion in damage. After being deluged with negative feedback and outrage from all over the U.S., Lessner was forced to resign. He earned the nickname "Hurricane Lessner" over this fiasco. One of Lessner's famous quotes from this article was:
"Americans are suckers and will contribute cash money to almost any outfit so long as it's called "(fill in the blank)" center for the public interest". (Arizona Republic, Sept. 6, 1992). Sounds like Mr. Lessner didn't think much of common folk.
By the way, the Arizona Republic newspaper also had on staff David Hans Schmidt, also know as "The Sultan of Sleeze". He wrote articles for the paper as a "celebrity porn broker" and got caught trying to extort millions from Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes over their wedding photos. Schmidt hung himself in his Arizona home before facing trial. But I digress.
After losing his job in Arizona, Lessner went to work for the Manchester Union Leader newspaper in New Hampshire. He didn't last long. He was fired for writing an article bashing French Canadians. Oh well, there's always Washington DC.
Lessner rolled into Washington and landed a gig with the American Conservative Union. The ACU was founded by William F. Buckley in 1964 after Barry Goldwater lost the US Presidential election to Lyndon Johnson by 61% of the vote. Notable members of the ACU include Tom Delay (convicted felon), Jesse Helms, Richard Viguerie, Bob Barr and Brent Bozell. The ACU got into hot water in fiscal year 2009 when Exec. Dir. David Keene's ex-wife, Diana Hubbard Carr, was their comptroller. She got her hand caught in the cookie jar to the tune of $300,000. She was fired and pled guilty to embezzlement. Lessner was Executive Director of the American Conservative Union in 2004, a year after he "founded" The Madison River Foundation. Guess it was time to get out of Dodge.
So "Old Hurricane" landed a job with Captial City Partners (a Washington "consulting" firm) and wrote a nasty article for the Weekly Standard bashing soccer. Soccer? C'mon Richard, ease off on the hatred.
No one who lives in Ennis, Montana as I have for 34 years, wants anything but the best for the Madison River, this great valley and the good folks who live here and work here. Richard Lessner was forced to "retire" because he just did not get it. He thought he could get in bed with Pennsylvania Power and Light, take their money...and cover up for them. PP&L is a money donor to MRF...don't call them out...don't piss them off...cover up for them . You know how Washington works...scratch my back, etc.
Hey Richard, this ain't Washington DC...people here are honest...we deal in facts, reality, truth. Your cause is good...but your DNA is dangerous. The Madison River has a soul...it runs deep and true...it can't be bought.
Lessner put on a show...hang with all the money people...pimp the Sun West Subdivision where they dug up Native American campsites to build their summer mansions and then ran folks off for eating lunch at Horse Creek.
The Sun West Subdivision...who fucked up the Shelton Bridge so bad making the road nice and smooth for the "Foundation Benefactors" that they broke loose all the cliff swallow nests into the river and destroyed them. Who cares?...the swallows will be back next year...worthless birds, anyway. And don't forget to post those attractive "Land For Sale" signs on the Shelton Bridge. And make sure the road is nice and level, to make it easier for Craig and Jackie Matthews to get home from a hard day of taking credit for just about everything (they are Sun West residents...happy for them).
The Sun West Subdivision...site of the infamous Ed Parish "Secret Meeting" that took place unbeknownst to the public in a subversive effort to pressure FWP to "get rid of the boats on the river".
And let's not forget to pimp the Laszlos...those benevolent "Foundation Benefactors"...the Granger family...those caring and sharing environmentalists who would love to have you come visit, fish and duck hunt the Upper O'Dell Ck...as long as you write a big enough check. The same Granger/Laszlo family who dammed up and blocked off the O'Dell Creek outlet to the Madison River, upstream and east of Burnt Tree to keep the nasty old public out. Here's a quote from one of the Foundation volunteers:
"I volunteered in 2011 and 2012 at the Granger Ranch project. I am sure that the ranch benefited more from our efforts than the river. Richard Lessner has never given me a real handshake or looked me in the eye."
Mr. Lessner, were you aware the Granger/Laszlos artificially altered the course of O'Dell Creek outlet...a tributary to the Madison River... when you put your arm around them and gave them a big kiss? I'm sure you had no idea but heck, nobody's perfect, take their money anyway.
Hey Granger/Laszlos...you want to do something to help the Madison River and O'Dell Creek? Then restore the stream bed to its original, natural state....the way it was before you hacked it up and dammed it.
You can see the old stream bed from O'Dell Ck. that used to flow freely into the Madison River from the east side above Burnt Tree before the Granger Ranch blocked it off and altered its course to prevent the public from legal access to O'Dell Ck.
Get all the big money people in a room, have a big Gala, feed 'em a rubber chicken and a shrimp cocktail, pour some merlot, take their money and spread the news. Have a big Festival and get up there and strut your stuff...give away a boat...be somebody!
And start the Dick McGuire Memorial Fund...I get a chuckle out of that one...I knew Dick Mcguire...I lived with Dick McGuire...I fished with Dick McGuire. Mr Lessner...you have no clue about Dick McGuire.
So here we are today. The Madison River Foundation is a cause to believe in...a cause to support..an excellent cause. The question is how? What to do with the money? Who will lead?
I have friends on the Board...Sherri Shows, Nancy DiMeola, Storrs Bishop...these are the best of the best people you will ever meet. I have fished with Bruce Richards and he is at the top of the list in integrity and knowledge. Jim Goetz is one of the leading conservation and legal minds in the state of Montana and in the USA. I was here in 1984 to witness the courtroom work he did on the Beaverhead and Dearborn stream access cases...these were historical legal judgements...and he was kind enough to send me the legal briefs on the Beaverhead case which I sent along to some of my concerned fishing clients. Jim Goetz is top notch. I knew Jim's dad, Herb Goetz who was a legend here in Ennis and a one-of-a-kind character!
The Madison River Foundation will continue...the cause is just...they should reach around $300,000 in the bank by this year with a half-million in sight. Hurricane Lessner should be thanked for his efforts and sent on his way...this is not Washington DC or Arizona or New Hampshire...it is Montana. Things are different here. God Speed.