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Friday, April 14th

Overview of the Flathead Lake Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy (VNRS)

Scott Marshall Payne, Kirk Environmental, LLC
Mark Holston, Flathead Basin Commission

If you ask Montanans which five Montana lakes are the most important or valuable, invariably Flathead Lake is in the top three picks. The lake's size, beauty, recreation benefits, and excellent water quality increase local real estate values and make it a popular destination. However, few Montanans know that Flathead Lake currently does not meet State water quality standards (ARM 17.30.637 (1)(e)General Prohibitions), and is undergoing the eutrophication process at an accelerated rate. Excess nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen) stimulate algal blooms and serious oxygen depletion of the deep waters. Extensive lake and stream water quality monitoring document that nonpoint source pollution is degrading water quality, interfering with beneficial uses, and causing violation of water quality standards. As a result, Flathead Lake is included on the Clean Water Act’s Section 303(d) list of water-quality-impaired waterbodies, and is a high priority for developing a water quality restoration plan (called a Total Maximum Daily Load or TMDL). Such a plan is close to completion.

Probable sources of water quality impairment include atmospheric deposition, domestic wastewater lagoons, flow regulation/modification, municipal point sources, on-site wastewater treatment systems (septic tanks), urban sprawl, overland runoff, agriculture, silvaculture, and an upstream impoundment. Only 2 percent of the nutrient load in Flathead Lake is estimated to come from point sources. The vast majority of nutrients come from natural sources or human-caused nonpoint source pollution. To address nonpoint source pollution, the Flathead Basin Commission (FBC) developed the Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Strategy (VNRS), and linked it to the TMDL process. The goal of the VNRS is to achieve the 1978 lake primary productivity level of 80 grams carbon/m2/year. This level is expected to yield water quality that meets water quality standards and supports beneficial uses (including swimming and aquatic life support). To meet the target primary productivity, the FBC determined that nitrogen (including nitrate plus nitrite) and phosphorus loading must be reduced by 15 percent basin wide. Six principal components for successful implementation of the ongoing VNRS/TMDL program include:

(1) coordination and planning, (2) grant funding & contributions (3) partnerships and public outreach, (4) participation of watershed groups, (5) identification of opportunities, and (6) monitoring. History, implementation and achievements of the Flathead Basin VNRS/TMDL are described in this paper.

Panel Report from the 2000 Clark Fork Symposium

Geoff Smith, Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Coalition
Scott Marshall Payne, Kirk Environmental, LLC
Kathy Hadley, Natural Resource Damage Program
Chris Brick, Clark Fork Coalition
C. A. Frissell, University of Montana, Missoula
Dennis Workman, Trout Unlimited
William R. Swaney, The University of Montana

Restoration Panel Comments

Dennis Workman, Trout Unlimited

Throughout the process of developing the states’ case in the Natural Resource Damage Claim, I have felt very confident that the state has assembled a team of scientists who could solve the problems that are identified, if they are solvable. I am encouraged to continue in that belief by the hiring of Carol Fox as coordinator of the program at this time. It will take a strong leader to guide everyone through the maze of complexities involved in allocating settlement funds.

Chris Clancy pointed out that state biologists are spread thin and it will take additional manpower to implement projects that are funded. He also discussed some of the work that is being done by the biologists and technicians. It should be noted that there is a tremendous amount of training and on-the-ground-experience among Region 2 fisheries workers in river mechanics, biology and implementing stream rehabilitation projects. This experience should be drawn on in the selection of projects to be funded by the NRD settlement. It will require the kind of experience these people have to be able to judge what is best for the aquatic ecosystem.

There are many relatively small projects that are worthy of funding and are very necessary to restore the river to its former condition. I hope there will be a mechanism for getting projects such as these through the screening process without a lot of delay. For example, Chris Brick noted that there is a lot of bank erosion along the mainstem of the river. Some of this is because the river has been straightened. Several of these artificially straight sections could be put back in old channel meanders by simply removing portions of the old Milwaukee Railroad bed. In most cases the old channel is relatively unchanged from when it was cut off by the railroad. Projects such as this will improve fish habitat in the mainstem, possibly get the river away from metals contaminated riverbed and reduce erosive forces.

Because the process of selecting projects for funding with NRD settlement dollars is political in nature, the advisory committee needs to make a special effort to inform and encourage the public to be involved in the process. Everyone interested in river restoration should know what the money can and cannot be used for.

Wetland/Riparian Habitat and Bull Trout Restoration Plan: Part 1

CSKT ARCO-Settlement ID Team

This restoration plan provides long-term guidance for restoring, replacing, and/or acquiring the natural resources and functions injured by the release of hazardous materials.

Wetland/Riparian Habitat and Bull Trout Restoration Plan: Part 2

CSKT ARCO-Settlement ID Team

This restoration plan provides long-term guidance for restoring, replacing, and/or acquiring the natural resources and functions injured by the release of hazardous materials