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Thursday, March 31st
7:00 PM

2005 State of the River Report

Vicki J. Watson, University of Montana - Missoula

7:00 PM - 7:20 PM

Evaluating the State of the Clark Fork Basin requires that we periodically:

  1. Assess its condition & compare that to our goals for the basin;
  2. Determine whether the basin’s condition is getting better or worse;
  3. Evaluate our plans & on-the-ground actions for effectiveness; and
  4. Consider challenges that face us in meeting our goals.

Condition and Trends

The basin’s condition in 2000 (when the last State of the Basin report was made) is compared to its condition in 2005 based on assessments made by MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFISH database) and MT Department of Environmental Quality (Water Quality Assessment Database). Both databases suggest the condition of the basin has improved since 2000, but some of this apparent trend is due to new information & changed definitions of impairment.

A detailed evaluation of levels of metals, nutrients, attached algae in the mainstem of the river reveal that in the last 5 years, metals & certain nutrient forms have decreased, yet one key nutrient (soluble N) and attached algae have stayed the same or increased. It is likely this is due to a drop in flows over this same period (resulting in less scouring of algae & dilution of this key nutrient).

Plans and Actions

The MT Department of Environmental Quality is making progress developing water quality restoration plans for impaired waters in the basin, but many more plans must be completed in the next 7 years. The US Forest Service will soon release new Forest Plans for several of the basin’s national forests, calling for more active watershed restoration. Watershed conservation partnerships, large & small, are forming throughout the basin, increasing coordination & the ability of the basin to attract large investments in conservation. But plans & partnerships must be translated into on-the-ground actions.

On-the-ground ACTION in the basin is outstanding in certain areas. Many fisheries restoration projects are being executed by MFWP & USFS & private landowners. Superfund remediation projects are carefully coordinated with restoration work funded by the Natural Resource Damage Program. Going beyond remediation to restoration is healing the land & providing jobs to communities. The decision to re-naturalize Silver Bow Creek & the confluence of the Blackfoot & Clark Fork Rivers will likely pay great dividends in economic revitalization for these areas.


Challenges that will make it more difficult to achieve water quality goals in the basin include the rapid rate of population growth, low density urban sprawl, and continuing drought conditions.

7:20 PM

Environment and Community Connections in the Basin

Chris Brick, Clark Fork Coalition
Tracy Stone-Manning, The University of Montana
Karen Knudsen, Clark Fork Coalition

7:20 PM - 7:40 PM

The Coalition’s 2005 “State of the Clark Fork” report (available online) summarizes social, economic, and environmental indicators within the Clark Fork Basin, with the goal of examining connections between watershed health and community health. Population growth is one of the most obvious changes in the watershed over the past ten years, and it has been a double-edged sword. On the positive side, an influx of people has brought more economic opportunity, more amenities, and more diversity in some parts of the basin. The costs include more traffic, more pollution, more crime, loss of farmland and wildlife habitat, and less affordable housing. Growth has centered on Flathead, Missoula and Ravalli counties, driven by in-migration of baby boomers looking for a higher quality of life. Economists have speculated that recent growth in the Rocky Mountain West is driven by a combination of natural amenities, an educated workforce, and access to an airport. The areas in the Clark Fork Basin that have grown in the past ten years definitely support this hypothesis. The sub-watersheds with the highest proportion of protected lands are also the watersheds that have seen the highest rates of population growth, and can claim robust economic and social indicators. Conversely, although Butte also has an airport and has ready access to beautiful landscapes, it has not shared in the growth of population and economy as much of the rest of the basin. It is undoubtedly stymied by the legacy of over 100 years of mining. Butte’s history is proud, but its future depends on adequate cleanup of historic mine wastes.

7:40 PM

Successful Watershed Partnerships

Diane Williams, Tri-State Water Quality Council

7:40 PM - 8:00 PM

While funders are seeking larger-scale collaborations and partnering on a watershed scale, many groups and individuals often resist such arrangements due to concerns over autonomy and self-protection. There are many ways to successfully partner with all types of entities – be it government, non-profit organizations, local groups, and/or landowners – and reap many benefits while avoiding common pitfalls.

Whether through more formal contractual agreements and sub-granting, or through less formal collaborations including advisory groups and committees, the accomplishments of the Council over the past 10 years throughout the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille watershed would have been impossible without the ability to work successfully among a diverse group of partners and stakeholders.

Benefits of partnering include reaching a broader audience, creating stronger ideas, avoiding duplication of efforts, and efficient use of time and resources. Challenges facing collaborations and partnerships are accountability, fiscal management, and issues concerning control and decision-making. Three key elements to creating successful partnerships are trust, communication, and leadership.

Drawing on the Council’s experience, examples of successful formal and informal partnerships are explored, focusing on the acquisition of a $1 million EPA Targeted Watersheds grant for the basin through a partnership of the Council, the Blackfoot Challenge, the Flathead Basin Commission, and the Watershed Restoration Coalition of the Upper Clark Fork.

8:00 PM

Healthy Lakes through Living Shores

Mark Holston, Flathead Basin Commission

8:00 PM - 8:30 PM

“Healthy Lakes through Living Shores” is a 17-minute video produced by the Flathead Basin Commission to inform basin residents of FBC activities and provide essential information on landowner Best Management Practices (BMPs) for property owners whose land borders lakes and streams. The importance of retaining or re-introducing buffer zones of native vegetation is stressed, as are landscaping and property maintenance techniques designed to minimize non-point source pollution, among other suggested BMPs. The video includes comments from Dr. Jack Stanford, Director of the Flathead Lake Biological Station (University of Montana), Dr. Paul Hansen, Bitterroot Restoration, and a variety of FBC volunteer monitors and lake residents who use BMPs on their property. The in-house production, funded by a 319 Grant, is available in DVD format, VHS on request, and on the FBC’s web site.

Screening of the video will be followed by brief discussion of its production and how it is being used as an education/outreach tool in achieving water quality objectives.

8:30 PM

Restoring Silver Bow Creek: An Educational CD-Rom

Kathy Coleman, Montana Natural Resource Damage Program
Todd Trigsted

8:30 PM - 9:00 PM

The cleanup of the Silver Bow Creek Superfund site near Butte is the largest stream and floodplain remediation/restoration project ever undertaken in the United States. Since remediation began in 1999, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality has removed over one million cubic yards of tailings in the floodplain, reconstructed the stream channel in the first six miles, and designed work for the next four miles. When complete, over 22 miles of stream channel and floodplain will have been treated to remove some four million cubic yards of tailings and soils laden with heavy metals. Under restoration, a greenway trail system is also being constructed that will enhance aquatic and riparian resources and provide a variety of recreation opportunities. Combined, the 10-12 year joint remediation/restoration work will result in a restored floodplain ecosystem.

The educational CD-ROM, “Restoring Silver Bow Creek” provides the visual context necessary to comprehend the enormous size of the pollution problem, cleanup, reconstruction and restoration effort. Artist Todd Trigsted spent ten years filming the cultural and environmental impacts of Butte’s copper mining industry. Some of this work, and new work under contract with the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, was consolidated for this educational CD-ROM. The CD-ROM offers photographs, panoramic views, videos, or diagrams that cover topics such as the mining history, environmental injuries, remediation and restoration. Viewers can see snapshots of tailings removal, transport and disposal activities and stream reconstruction activities in progress, as well as reaches of the creek in various phases of cleanup.