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Secure stream flows on a comprehensively restored stream, Nevada Spring Creek, in the Blackfoot River sub-basin. Nevada Spring Creek, along with Wasson Creek, which flows into it, form a critical reconnect for a long-lost population of fluvial Westslope Cutthroat Trout in the middle-Blackfoot drainage. This project assures stable flows and temperatures in a stream that formerly experienced high temperatures lethal to cutthroat.
TU employed a little-used provision of Montana water law which allows the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks to permanently dedicate a consumptive-use water right (in this case, irrigation) to instream use. This involved TU purchasing the water rights from the irrigator and then conveying them to DFWP, which will permanently change them to an instream use.
First, in the short history of the instream water law (the 2007 Montana Legislature enacted it), this is the first time that a state agency (DFWP) has accepted ownership of a consumptive use water right with the express purpose of dedicating it to an instream environmental use. Second, with this acquisition and re-conveyance, TU has assured that Nevada Spring Creek will never again be dewatered, thus securing the habitat connection between the mouth of Wasson Creek and the middle Blackfoot.
Stan Bradshaw, project manager, TU Montana Water Project
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