This image shows Lewis and Clark fishing at Great Falls long before utilities company PPL built its Black Eagle Dam to pimp the Missouri River for hydroelectricity. Today, the case for who owns the land beneath Great Falls lands in U.S. Supreme Court, with arguments to be presented in the PPL Montana v. the state of Montana hearing. The case could have national ramifications for flyfishers and rafters (read more, here) because it pits private property rights and commerce against basic public access benefits.
From the Great Falls Tribune (not to be confused with the PPL Great Falls Tribune):
According to MONTANA…
“The judgment reached by the Montana Supreme Court in this case would have seemed natural to Lewis and Clark and the many pioneers who followed in their wake and helped settle the State. PPL’s sharp-edged attack on the reasoning and even motives of the Montana Supreme Court is unfounded, and out of step with this Court’s precedents. The judgment of the Montana Supreme Court should be affirmed.”
— State of Montana’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court
“The Montana Supreme Court held on a summary judgment record that the State of Montana owns the riverbeds under more than 500 miles of rivers, including the riverbeds under multiple hydropower facilities on the upper Missouri, Madison and Clark Fork rivers. This came as quite a shock, because for more than a century the riverbeds beneath those facilities have been treated as owned by private parties or the federal government.”
— PPL’s brief to the U.S. Supreme Court