Eustache Creek Mine Reclamation Project
Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited
Eustache Creek is a headwater tributary of Ninemile Creek in Missoula County, Montana. Located in the Lolo National Forest, Eustache Creek was subjected to sporadic placer mining activity in the early 1900s and has been left in a disturbed state, with over 1.3 miles of stream posing risks to long-term channel stability, fish recovery, and the health of the watershed downstream. Problems include mining spoil piles, straightened stream channels, shallow sediment ponds, fish passage impediments and a lack of instream fish habitat.
The Westslope Chapter of Trout Unlimited partnered with the Lolo National Forest and the Ninemile Watershed Group to remove the mining spoil piles and reconstruct portions of the stream channel. An $8,000 Embrace-A-Stream grant was matched by chapter funds, a grant from the National Forest Foundation, and contributions from the Lolo National Forest to hire a local excavator operator and purchase nearly 7,000 riparian plants and upland conifers. TU volunteers have been involved in project trainings, pre- and post- project monitoring of fish and macroinvertebrate populations, and hands on revegetation – a total of more than 1,000 volunteer hours.
A total of 5,600 feet of linear stream channel was reconstructed to benefit native westslope cutthroat populations. Mine tailings were regraded against the surrounding hillsides to establish flooplain connectivity and amended with topsoil to benefit revegetation efforts. A failed culvert on the upstream end of the project section was also replaced to improve fish passage. The project has been profiled in the local newspaper, the Missoulian, three times since the project’s inception and featured in the Clark Fork Chronicle as well. Due to this media coverage, the continued success of the project, and support of the National Forest Foundation, TU has been working with the Forest Service to prioritize restoration opportunities in the Ninemile watershed.