Important Tributary to be Reconnected to the Yellowstone


Important Tributary to be Reconnected to the Yellowstone

Important Tributary to be Reconnected to the Yellowstone

Laura Ziemer
Director, Montana Water Project
Trout Unlimited Western Water Project
406.522.7291 x. 100

2/13/2004 — Bozeman, Mont. — A project that will reconnect an important tributary to the Yellowstone River has received funding from the National Resources Conservation Service and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The grant will be used reconnect the North Fork of Fridley Creek with the Yellowstone River, opening the creek to spawning and rearing functions for both resident fish from Fridley Creek, as well as migratory fish from the mainstem of the Yellowstone. In the 1930s, an irrigation canal was constructed, which truncated the North Fork of Fridley Creek causing it to flow into the canal rather than the Yellowstone River.

When completed, this project will mean that for the first time in 70 years, the North Fork of Fridley Creek will once again join the Yellowstone. And, as they did prior to the 1930s, native fish like Yellowstone cutthroat and rainbow trout will once again have unimpeded access to the creek for spawning and migratory purposes, said Laura Ziemer, the director of Trout Unlimiteds Montana Water Project, one of the applicants for the grant.

The project will put the North Fork of Fridley Creek through a 25-meter culvert, which will pass under the canal, into its old channel and then into the Yellowstone River. The channel will be reconstructed, upstream and downstream of the canal, to accommodate the culvert. A series of rock weirs, or step pools, upstream of the culvert will also be constructed and fencing to keep livestock out of the stream corridor will be installed. This spring and summer, volunteers from Trout Unlimited and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, will help with rebuilding the streambed and installing the fencing.

Ziemer said that because Murphy’s Ox Yoke Ranch currently diverts water from the creek for flood irrigation, a groundwater well will be dug and two micro-pivot sprinkler systems will be installed to replace the water used for flood irrigation during the low-flow season. Since the ranch’s reliance on Fridley Creek water will be replaced with groundwater, the ranch will be able to convert the full amount of their irrigation water right to maintain healthy streamflows in lower Fridley Creek during the low-flow season.

Greg Smith, of the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, said the program is unique in that it helps make agricultural use of the property more efficient while at the same time enhancing the fish and wildlife values of the land a win-win situation for agriculture producers interested in long-term stewardship.

The restoration of the North Fork of Fridley Creek is a classic example of the good that can happen when Montanans work together. The cooperation of the owners of Murphy’s Ox Yoke Ranch, in conjunction with the groundwork of Trout Unlimited and the Gallatin Valley Land Trust and the funding from state and federal agencies, will bring this important creek back to life, said Smith.

Mission: Trout Unlimited is North Americas leading coldwater fisheries conservation organization, dedicated to the conservation, protection and restoration of trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds. The organization has more than 130,000 members in 450 chapters in North America.

Date: 2/13/2004