More than $680,000 going to Montana fisheries
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: March 17, 2020

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Reclamation selected the Big Hole Watershed Committee ($99,999), Bitter Root Water Forum Inc. ($99,893), Blackfeet Tribe of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation ($99,959), Clearwater Resource Council ($100,000), Greater Gallatin Watershed Council ($100,000), Petroleum County Conservation District ($87,835) and the Sun River Watershed ($99,084) to receive funding to complete watershed projects. The funding is part of the Cooperative Watershed Management Program that provides funding to complete watershed group development, watershed restoration planning and watershed management project design.

“Locally driven, consensus-based solutions are some of the best ways to solve the many complex water issues that impact the West today,” said Reclamation Commissioner Brenda Burman. “The Cooperative Watershed Management Program encourages diverse stakeholders to work together to improve water reliability and management within their communities.”

The Big Hole Watershed Committee, established in 1995, is a local watershed group dedicated to the conservation of the Big Hole River, a tributary to the Missouri River, in southwest Montana. Stakeholder identified priorities include improving late-season water availability and decreasing conifer encroachment, which is a key source of water depletions in the area.

The Bitter Root Water Forum, in western Montana, is partnering with Trout Unlimited to engage with stakeholders in the Bitterroot Watershed to identify approaches to improve water delivery for irrigation while benefitting water quality and fisheries. The Bitterroot Watershed includes a complex water delivery system, with 30 irrigation districts and ditch companies, 26 back-country dams, and thousands of individual diversions and ditches. This watershed is also home to world-renown fisheries and provides habitat for the Endangered Species Act-listed Bull Trout.

The Blackfeet Tribe, located in northwestern Montana, will establish a new watershed group in the Blackfeet Two Medicine Watershed and conduct watershed restoration planning. The watershed is the critical headwaters system along the continental divide and the first transition of the headwaters into a populated area within the Blackfeet Nation, the Rocky Mountain steppe, and the arid plains.

The Clearwater Resource Council, established in 2003, will develop a watershed restoration plan for the Clearwater Watershed in Missoula County, Montana. This watershed forms the southernmost portion of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and is known as the “Crown of the Continent” for its globally recognized high conservation value, and its high cultural value to area tribes.

The Musselshell Watershed Coalition will expand on past watershed planning efforts to adapt to environmental changes within the Musselshell River Watershed in central Montana. This watershed is dominated by privately owned agricultural land. The landowners, along with water user associations, conservation districts, county and city governments, and state and Federal land management agencies, are actively involved in the Coalition.

The Greater Gallatin Watershed Council, based in Bozeman, Montana, will expand on prior planning efforts to plan future restoration activities in the Lower Gallatin Watershed in, located in southwest Montana. The Council will focus on the lower reach of the Gallatin River, known as the Lower Gallatin Watershed, where the Council has been active in creating an inventory of completed restoration projects and is developing a platform to share information about those projects.

Sun River Watershed is a grassroots watershed group comprised of irrigation and conservation districts, fish and wildlife agencies, private landowners and businesses and local, state and federal agencies that work to address resource concerns across the Sun River Watershed, located south of Glacier National Park in Montana. The group will address water quality and erosion issues in Muddy Creek, a principal tributary of Sun River.

Reclamation provided $2.8 million to 29 projects across the West. Projects are divided into two groups: establishment of new watershed groups and further development of existing watershed groups. Reclamation will provide approximately $900,000 for nine groups to form a new watershed group and $1.9 million to 20 groups to further develop a watershed group. A complete description of the selected projects can be found at:https://www.usbr.gov/watersmart/cwmp.

Through WaterSMART, Reclamation works cooperatively with states, tribes and local entities as they plan for and implement actions to increase water supply reliability through investments to modernize existing infrastructure and attention to local water conflicts. Visit www.usbr.gov/watersmart to learn more.