Lake Elmo State Park Improvement Project
By angelamontana

Posted: July 13, 2021

The Lake Elmo State Park Improvement Project is a multi-divisional effort at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks made up of the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS), Fisheries, and Parks divisions.

Lake Elmo State Park is in Billings, Montana and receives high visitation year-around for a variety of activities. The primary goal of the Project is to remove a recently discovered AIS, the Asian clam. Additional components of the Project include improving the trail, fisheries habitat, angler access, and other park amenities.

OVERVIEW:

Corbicula fluminea (Asian, Golden, or Good Luck clams) is an AIS discovered at Lake Elmo State Park in 2019. In Montana, the population at Lake Elmo is the only known presence of Asian clams. Additional sampling in 2019 and 2020 suggest that Asian clams are only in Lake Elmo, as no clams were found in nearby waterbodies or the adjacent irrigation ditch. Neither the source or date of the introduction is known. However, the clams have been in the lake for at least several years because both juveniles and adult clams are present.

Asian clams are undesirable because they clog irrigation and water system infrastructure, filter and remove important food sources needed by other species, like fish and turtles, and promote the growth of harmful bacteria and algae. Furthermore, the shells of dead Asian clams are sharp and pose a safety hazard. Additionally, if the clams are ignored, they will likely spread into the irrigation ditch, nearby creeks, and possibly the Yellowstone River.

Results from the public scoping efforts in March 2020 indicated strong support for FWP to address the presence of Asian clams in Lake Elmo. Data show that drying and freezing are the best way to kill the clams. A partial drawdown (approximately three feet) of Lake Elmo was completed from October 2020–May 2021. The drawdown exposed portions of the shoreline and lakebed. Many dead clams were discovered by FWP staff and the public throughout the winter of 2021. However, a full-drawn of Lake Elmo is needed for complete eradication. Additional results from the public scoping showed that the public was supportive of FWP to use the clam eradication strategy as an opportunity to improve the park while the lake is fully drained. Plans include (but not limited to) trail and bank improvements, rock jetties, a ramp on the northeastern shore for ice anglers and kayakers, and new fish habitat.

2019

June

  • Asian clams detected in Lake Elmo

August

  • Surveys (plankton tow, dredge, walk/wade shoreline) confirms reproducing population of Asian clams

December

  • 1st multi-divisional FWP meeting regarding Asian clam eradication strategies

2020

May

  • Public scoping supports eradication actions and improvements

September

  • Another round of sampling for Asian clams

October

  • Environmental assessment completed and out for public comment
  • Partial and limited drawdown of Lake Elmo

December

  • Environmental assessment signed and decision released

2021

March

  • Asian clam population survey

April-May

  • Stock catchable-length trout
  • Lake Elmo fully refilled – will remain full over the summer

May

  • Creel limits removed; anglers can catch and keep all fish in Lake Elmo following standard fishing regulations

June 30

  • No further trout stocking

August

  • Construction of small fish habitat (e.g., catfish condos) begins

September 1

  • Lake Elmo begins to drain – will likely take over 40 days

October

  • Lake Elmo deadpool pumping
  • Lake Elmo completely drained

December

  • Post-drawdown sampling for Asian clams

2022

March

  • Major construction begins for larger habitat pieces, access, and trail begins

April 15

  • Refilling Lake Elmo begins

May

  • Fish stocking begins

Summer

  • Post-refill Asian clam surveys

For more information from FWP, click here.