TU is working to secure healthy stream flows on a restored stream in the Blackfoot River sub-basin. Braziel Creek drains a small watershed west of Nevada Creek. About four miles in length, Braziel Creek supports a nearly pure population of Westslope Cutthroat Trout. The lower quarter mile of the creek has suffered from overgrazing, dewatering, and channelization. Thus, with most of TU’s restoration projects, it is a multi-faceted restoration effort.
The rancher on this reach of the creek agreed to both grazing restrictions and channel restoration. Those went into place in 2010. In late 2012, the rancher agreed to work with TU for one irrigation season (2013) to maintain a base flow of 0.5 cfs—the rancher’s water rights can, and have, completely dewatered the stream in the past.
The agreement, which does not involve the conveyance of water rights, is known as a split-season diversion-reduction agreement. In essence, the irrigator can irrigate as usual, until the creek’s flow reaches our minimum desired flow—0.5 cfs in this case—at which time he has to reduce his diversion to maintain that minimum flow.
In 2017, after four years of single-year agreements, TU and the landowner entered into a ten year split-season lease for 0.5 cfs keeping a base flow in Braziel Creek throughout the summer and securing restoration efforts for native trout.
Stan Bradshaw, Montana counsel