Montana State Agencies and TU Agree to Expand Flows on the Bitterroot River
A permanent commitment of 10,000 acre feet of water for the river will help to protect native trout populations
Counsel, Montana Water Project
7/8/2004 -- Helena, Mont. -- An agreement reached between two Montana state agencies will assure fishery flows for one of the state’s most popular trout rivers.
The agreement, which was reached between the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), will result in 10,000 acre-feet of water from Painted Rocks Reservoir being set aside permanently for fishery purposes in the Bitterroot River. The State Game and Fish Commission formally approved the agreement today.
“This agreement will result in significant protections for native and resident trout in the Bitterroot River, a river that has often struggled with inadequate flows,” said Laura Ziemer, the director of Trout Unlimited’s Montana Water Project.
TU’s Montana Water Project helped to broker the agreement and raised $400,000 that will be placed into a maintenance fund for major rehabilitation needs on the Painted Rocks Reservoir.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Bitterroot often suffered from chronic dewatering of its mainstem and tributaries. The state increased flows from the reservoir into the river in the 1990s as a result of a short-term (12-year) contract between the FWP and the DNRC. That contract for the use of 10,000 acre-feet of water from Painted Rocks Reservoir for fishery purposes in the Bitterroot River was set to expire on September 30, 2004.
As a result of the increase in flows, the Bitterroot River has become one of the most popular trout rivers in Montana.
“This agreement is the result of a great effort of cooperation between the FWP, DNRC and Trout Unlimited,” said Chris Hunter, Administrator of the FWP Fisheries Division.
Ziemer noted that the Painted Rocks agreement is important from several perspectives. She said it changes a longstanding practice of the state not to allow long-term water use contracts. It will help to maintain habitat for endangered native bull trout and westslope cutthroat populations living in the river and will also stabilize flows on the river.
“This agreement will exist forever, which means that the Bitterroot River will have a long, promising future,” said Ziemer.
Mission: With more than 127,000 members nationwide, Trout Unlimited is the nation’s largest coldwater conservation organization dedicated to the protection of trout, salmon and steelhead populations and the watersheds upon which they depend.