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Landowner’s Guide to fixing streams on working lands

in the Upper ClarK fork Watershed


MISSOULA

upper clark fork watershed LEWIS & CLARK

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MISSOULA

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design + illustration = joanna yardley | my-design.net

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cover photo = michael kustudia

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BEAVERHEAD

WASHINGTON

MONTANA

PRIVATE LAND STATE LAND

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Sedimentation

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Flow Alterations

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Conservation Partners

How Healthy is Your Stream? Stream Habitat Degradation

Stream Channel Modification

Project Profile: Sand Hollow Pipeline

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Introduction

Project Profile: Broken Circle Ranch

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Table of Contents

IDAHO

FEDERAL LAND PRIVATE LAND

JEFFERSON

Project Profile: Thomas Herefords Nutrients Metals

Project Profile: Spring Creek Mine Reclamation Grants and Loans for Restoration


What makes the upper Clark Fork watershed special? “It was a beautiful stream, the water clear and sparkling and alive with the finest trout, and the same was true of every spring we crossed. The valley was full of antelope and many head of fat cattle belonging to the mountaineers who lived there.” • Rancher Conrad Kohrs upon arrival in the Deer Lodge Valley, 1862

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n many ways, the upper Clark Fork watershed is not much different today than when Conrad Kohrs arrived. The Deer Lodge valley is still known for wide-open spaces, healthy herds of cattle, and plentiful wildlife. Over the past 150 years, abundant resources have fueled people’s livelihoods in ranching, logging, mining and commerce. These pursuits have sustained the local communities, but over time they’ve also left their mark on the valley’s streams.

introduction

Streams and rivers are important assets for the people in the upper Clark Fork watershed, and they add value to agricultural operations in these arid valleys. Local landowners take pride in their property and—given that nearly half of all the land in the upper Clark Fork watershed is held in private ownership—landowners play a critical role in the stewardship of the valley’s resources.

Why restore streams?

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iving and ranching with a stream on your property provides many benefits for agricultural production.

Restoring a stream also provides opportunities for landowners to improve range health, upgrade irrigation and stock-watering systems, or update land management practices.

Not only do streams supply water for crops and livestock, healthy streams also recharge groundwater and help prevent property loss from erosion or flooding. And nowadays, more and more attention is focused on improving water quality and stream health to benefit resources like fish and wildlife.

This guide gives ideas on how to manage resources like water, soil, vegetation, fish and wildlife sustainably while also keeping the land productive for crops and livestock. Fixing streams today will benefit the whole landscape, and will contribute to Montana’s natural heritage for generations to come.

What’s in this guide?

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irst, the guide gives a nuts-andbolts description of the main threats to streams in the upper Clark Fork watershed. You’ll find a short summary of each problem, what causes it, and—most importantly—how to fix it. This guide also includes a few examples of

stream restoration projects undertaken by local landowners. Second, because fixes often require money and time, there’s a list of the available funding programs and partners to help you get the job done.

Third, you’ll find a pullout of maps that highlight the specific threats facing individual streams, as well as a list of landowners’ priorities for improving their local watersheds, gleaned during meetings held by the Watershed Restoration Coalition.

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fixing streams on working lands. How Healthy Is Your Stream?

This is the green zone next to streams and rivers where plants depend on the presence of water and periodic flooding. Riparian areas provide vital services: the streamside plants prevent runoff of pollutants into the water, hold the stream in place, and provide our best wildlife habitat.

Riparian areas make up less than 5% of Montana´s landscape, yet they support 85% of our plant and animal species.

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healthy stream

unhealthy stream

WATER QUALITY AND FLOW XX Cool, clear water free of contaminants

XX Murky or muddy water, odors, visible waste

XX Flows resemble natural cycles

XX Reduced flows dry up portions of the stream that previously flowed year-round

STREAMBED AND BANKS

This indicator chart will help you gauge whether a stream is healthy, and also help you “diagnose” an unhealthy stream. The following pages lay out the most common problems facing streams in the watershed, as well as the steps to correct or prevent future stream degradation.

XX Stable banks with shrubs and trees shading the stream

XX Little or no woody vegetation along banks

XX Minimal bank erosion

XX High proportion of crumbling or eroding banks, or stream frequently moves to new location or cuts deeper into the land

XX Stream has both pools and riffles, deep and shallow habitat XX Abundant clean gravel on streambed

XX Few pools; channel is mostly wide and shallow XX Streambed is muddy with little or no clean gravel, or green slime (algae) covers the stream bottom

VEGETATION AND WILDLIFE Big Blackfoot Chapter Trout Unlimited

riparian

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ith some streams in the upper Clark Fork watershed, the signs of wear and tear are easy to see, like with creeks that are channelized or murky-brown with sediments. However, some of the problems in our streams are less visible, such as heavy metal contamination, or gradual loss of natural vegetation, or nutrient overabundance.

XX Abundance of native streamside vegetation, especially shrubs and sedges with deep roots

XX Weeds, shallow-rooted grass, or bare earth along streambanks and adjacent streamside area

XX Natural woody debris in channel provides cover for thriving fish, amphibians, aquatic insects

XX Fewer fish, amphibians, and aquatic insects

XX Lush vegetation along stream and evidence of wildlife

XX Little to no plant or animal diversity in streamside areas


Stream Habitat Degradation. what’s the problem?

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tream habitat includes both channel habitat—like pools, riffles and overhanging banks— and riparian habitat, which is the vegetation along either side of the stream. These two areas depend on one another, and form a vital, inter-connected system. For instance, logs or brush that fall into the stream from the riparian area create channel habitat, such as pools or cover for fish. Leaves and other organic debris provide food for aquatic insects that trout feed on.

vegetation from willows or cottonwoods helps keep water temperatures cool by shading the stream. Removing, disrupting, clearing, or even gradually removing streamside vegetation can cause increased bank erosion, a higher risk of flooding, sedimentation and water quality degradation, warmer water temperatures, and the loss of good quality fish and wildlife habitat.

When woody debris is “cleaned out” of the channel, valuable habitat for fish, birds, and bugs is lost. Many species depend on the pools and eddies that wood provides for food and cover.

What Causes It?

Native riparian plants—like cottonwoods and willows—keep streambanks stable because their deep roots hold soil in place far better than non-native grasses. Streamside vegetation helps keep water clean by taking up excess nitrogen and phosphorus, and filtering sediment runoff. And overhanging

• Intense land-use activities near streams, such as timber harvesting or construction. • Channelizing the stream or armoring banks with rip-rap. • Developing roads and buildings in a stream’s buffer zone and riparian area. • Crop cultivation too close to the stream. • Long term overgrazing of livestock along the stream. • Removing or clearing native streamside vegetation such as cottonwoods, willows, and other shrubs.

How To Fix It.

• Install riparian fencing, and create a plan to carefully manage grazing in riparian pastures. • Maintain or restore native vegetation along streambanks. • Develop off-stream water sources or water gaps for livestock.

problem  Not enough streamside vegetation to prevent excessive erosion.

• Explore a conservation easement or buffer for riparian areas. (See page 20 for programs that compensate landowners for streamside land set aside for conservation). • Maintain buffers when logging or building structures that leave room for native plants to grow and streams to move naturally throughout their floodplain. • Consult with Fish, Wildlife and Parks, a stream restoration specialist, or one of the partners listed on page 24 to restore stream habitat that has been severely modified or degraded.

problem  Stream is wide and shallow from frequent livestock use, with trampled banks and little streamside vegetation.

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fixing streams on working lands. Broken Circle Ranch MISSOULA LEWIS & CLARK POWELL

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With their new off-stream water tanks, the Nicholsons are able to distribute grazing pressure evenly across the ranch, improving range condition, animal performance, and water quality and riparian habitat along the river. PRIVATE LAND STATE LAND

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fixing streams on working lands.

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unning the Broken Circle Ranch, which is located a few miles south of Deer Lodge, keeps Jeremy and Jennifer Nicholson plenty busy. Yet they’ve still found time to put in place innovative projects that improve both their bottom line and the health of their land. The Broken Circle extends uphill from the Clark Fork River toward the Boulder Mountains and the Continental Divide. In recent years, the Nicholsons invested in two projects that have enhanced their agricultural operations as well as the fish and wildlife habitat on their ranch: converting from barbwire to a solarpowered electric fence, and installing a network of tanks and pipes to distribute stock water throughout the property. The Nicholsons built their first electric fence in 2005. The new fence consists of three high-tensile wires hung on fiberglass posts, and is shorter than the old fence with its top and bottom wires measuring just 36 and 16 inches from the ground, respectively. To date, they’ve installed

nearly ten miles on their ranch, using this new low-maintenance tool to improve their pasture management, maintain a sense of open space, increase cattle access to water sources, and protect riverbanks and hayfields from unwanted grazing. The second project Jeremy and Jennifer put in place is an impressive stock watering system. This grazing management tool allows for better range and riparian management. Water is siphoned from the Clark Fork River and piped uphill into a network of holding tanks that serve cattle in the ranch’s upland pastures. With the help of the NRCS, the Broken Circle improved the distribution of stock water on the property, which helps mitigate the impacts of continuous livestock grazing along the Clark Fork River. Despite the rolling topography of the Broken Circle, the pipeline has a good flow rate because of a series of solar-powered booster pumps. With their new off-stream water tanks, the Nicholsons are able to distribute grazing pressure evenly across the ranch, improving


project profile Any restoration project, regardless of type or scale, should be guided by common sense. range condition, animal performance, and the water quality and riparian habitat along the river. The pipeline also takes pressure off natural water sources and improves their ability to actively manage riparian areas.

who might be interested in similar types of improvements: “Any restoration project, regardless of type or scale, should be guided by common sense.”

Overall, Jeremy and Jennifer are happy with the progress they have made. They give this advice to neighboring landowners

 A tire serves as an upland stock-watering tank.  A three-wire electric fence on fiberglass posts.

• It’s effective. Cattle stay far away from the electrified wires. Jeremy used the fence around one of his irrigated fields, and says: “I had two feet of alfalfa on one side, and cows grazing on the other. Nothing got through.” • It´s cheap. With materials estimated at only 30 cents per foot, the new fence saved money compared to the resource-intensive traditional fences that require barbwire and steel posts. Plus, solar-powered chargers and booster pumps keep their monthly operating costs low. • It´s strong. Though they look more minimal than barbwire designs, the Nicholsons are impressed by how well the new technology holds up. “They haven´t needed to be re-stretched,” Jeremy notes. • It´s good for wildlife. Deer and elk have no trouble jumping over the 3-foot-high top wire, and antelope can cross below the bottom wire.

 A solar charger powers the fence.

Photos: Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Why Make A Fencing Switch?

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Sedimentation. what’s the problem?

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little sediment in western Montana streams is natural, especially during spring runoff. But too much “extra” silt and sand restricts the amount of sunlight filtering through streamwater. Lowered visibility makes it tough for fish to find food. Plus, suspended sediment can be physically damaging to fish gills. When silt settles out onto the streambed, it clogs the spaces between gravels and cobbles, buries fish eggs and larva, and chokes out habitat for the insects that cold-water trout depend on. On the practical side of things, when too much sediment builds up in a streambed, the channel fills in. This can lead to unstable banks, and increase the chances that the stream will cut itself a new channel or flood over its banks and affect agricultural operations. In addition, a stream with too much sediment can become wider and shallower. Shallow, wide streams also have increased water temperatures, and can become too warm to maintain healthy native fish populations.

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fixing streams on working lands.

 An over-widened channel with limited vegetation contributes sediment to the creek.

 The same channel after restoration: the channel has been narrowed and the streambanks re-vegetated.


What Causes It?

• Construction activities that disturb ground near waterways.

 Too much sediment causes streams to run brown with mud.

• Excessive livestock grazing that tramples streambanks and damages streamside vegetation. • Removing native streamside vegetation leads to bank erosion that adds sediment to the water, especially during high flows. • Logging without following proper Best Management Practices and Streamside Management Zone laws. • Dirt roads add surprising amounts of sediment to nearby streams, especially if: Roads are close to the streambank Roadside ditches dump directly into the stream

 Roads contribute to water quality problems by adding sediment to streams.

Road slopes are steep Roads lack enough culverts or crossings to properly divert water • Undersized culverts or poorly placed stream-crossings can wash out during high water, leaving eroded banks upstream and a sedimentchoked channel downstream.

How To Fix It.

• Create a plan to carefully manage grazing in riparian areas using pasture rotations or riparian fencing. • Develop off-stream water sources or water gaps for livestock.

 Lack of streamside vegetation leads to excessive bank erosion.

• Design roads carefully: locate new roads away from streams and install adequate drainage structures on existing roads. • Replace undersized culverts that restrict stream flow along roads. • Maintain or restore healthy native streamside vegetation, including woody species and plants with deep-binding roots that help stabilize streambanks, like willows and cottonwoods. • Avoid construction directly adjacent to streams.

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Stream Channel Modification. what’s the problem?

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he size and shape of a natural stream channel is based on a delicate balance between the amount of water and the amount of sediment it carries. When a channel is modified, this balance is upset, causing the stream to become unstable. This instability leads to unintended consequences for water quality, stream life, riparian habitat and other stream-side landowners. Straightening a stream causes it to pick up speed, carving a steep gully as water quickly erodes the streambed and banks. If a channel is cut too deeply, high flows can no longer reach the floodplain. When a stream becomes disconnected from its floodplain, it is unable to provide proper groundwater recharge and flood storage— this damages streamside vegetation, leads to increased risk of flooding downstream, and can harm landowners’ agricultural operations as they lose potential subirrigation and late season return flows.

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fixing streams on working lands.

Locking a stream channel in place by using rock or other hard material to armor streambanks (also called rip-rap) also impairs water quality and habitat. While landowners may occasionally need to stabilize banks, “hard-armoring” techniques only transfer the erosion problem to neighbors downstream by increasing the stream’s velocity and the rate of erosive power.

Widening the channel is another type of modification, often caused by removing streamside vegetation, excessive livestock trampling, or certain types of mining techniques. Wider streams tend to be shallower and warmer, with water temperatures too high to maintain native fish populations. Channel widening also reduces the amount of fish habitat in the stream, leaving them fewer places to find cover, shade, and food.

 Moving and straightening this channel caused it to incise (erode downward), leaving crumbling banks and poor quality stream habitat.


What Causes It?

before

after

 Reconstructing a new streambank using coir logs and soil lifts, to create “soft armor” stabilization for banks.

 This reconstructed and revegetated streambank is resistant to erosion.

• Dredging or channelization to straighten or re-align a stream can increase erosion, causing sedimentation and increased flooding downstream. • Straightening or dredging a stream also leaves unstable banks with less riparian vegetation. • Armoring of stream banks with hard material such as rock or concrete impedes the stream’s natural form and function. Confining streambanks restricts the channel from using its floodplain to naturally dissipate energy, and transfers erosion problems to downstream neighbors. • Excessive livestock-trampling and loss of bank-stabilizing streamside vegetation widens a stream, increases sediment delivery, and reduces aquatic habitat.

How To Fix It.

Big Blackfoot Chapter Trout Unlimited

• Consult with Fish, Wildlife and Parks or a stream restoration specialist to restore a stream that has been severely modified by straightening or widening. Solutions can range from simply removing the cause of the problem and letting the stream heal itself, to rebuilding a new stream channel and floodplain. • Replace hard armoring like rip-rap with softer bio-engineered bank stabilization techniques (see example picture), and plant a streamside buffer of native vegetation. • Install riparian fencing and create a plan to carefully manage grazing in riparian pastures. • Develop off-site water sources or water gaps for livestock.

Big Blackfoot Chapter Trout Unlimited

• Diagnose the cause of the problem, and identify upstream conditions that continue to affect the stream.

 A trampled spring creek that was too wide and shallow before restoration.

 After restoration: the spring creek channel is narrower and revegetated.

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fixing streams on working lands. Sand Hollow Pipeline

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MISSOULA LEWIS & CLARK POWELL

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The stock water system went a long way toward improving rangeland health. Now that the livestock have plenty of options for off-stream water, landowners are working to restore the trampled banks along the creeks. PRIVATE LAND STATE LAND

FEDERAL LAND

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fixing streams on working lands.

long the lower section of Dry Cottonwood Road, which follows the twists and turns of Dry Cottonwood Creek, native riparian plants grow sparsely, choked out by weeds like cheatgrass, knapweed and leafy spurge. Turn right and head uphill on Sand Hollow Road, however, and the weeds begin to disappear. A mile away from the creek, on a ridge looking west over the Clark Fork River, the range is transformed: native bunchgrass grow robustly, interspersed with rabbitbrush, lupine and other forbs. The difference is water, and Ted Beck knows it. Ted grew up on a ranch just across the valley, and makes his living raising cattle in this arid landscape. Today, he owns, manages, and leases large chunks of land in the upper Deer Lodge Valley, and has played an important role in changing the way cattle graze the rangelands around Dry Cottonwood, Sand Hollow, and Orofino Creeks. “It started in 2004, when I went into the NRCS office with a question about some program or other, and Nancy Sweeney mentioned this big stock water project she had funding for on the east side of the valley,” Ted said.

Today, the results of the “big project” dot the landscape, delivering water to a large number of upland pastures. Concrete tanks straddle fence lines along the ridges, supplied by two pipelines: a pump-fed line on the bench above Orofino Creek, and a spring-fed line high on Sand Hollow Creek. The spring-fed line consists of a 16,500-gallon holding tank, 40,000 feet of pipe, and six stock tanks. The pump-fed line includes a 20,500-gallon holding tank, 33,000 feet of pipe, and nine stock tanks. “Our cattle can utilize the grass better,” Ted said. “They still like the riparian areas, especially in late summer when the grass dries out, but now they have a lot more options for water.” The new stock water system has given Ted more options, too. Before the project, two square miles of pasture depended exclusively on the lower reaches of Dry Cottonwood Creek for water. After early July, when Dry Cottonwood began living up to its name and drying out, a large chunk of prime pasture became completely unusable. With the new system, Ted enjoys more flexibility, and is now able to make better use of the pastures and grasses on his deeded and leased ground.


project profile The difference is water, and Ted Beck knows it.

 A concrete stock tank on the Sand Hollow pipeline.

The Numbers Orofino Creek’s Spring-fed Pipeline • 16,500-gallon holding tank • 40,000 feet of pipe • 6 stock tanks

 Air vents provide access for switching flows to the desired tanks.

Sand Hollow Creek’s Pump-fed Pipeline • 20,500-gallon holding tank • 33,000 feet of pipe • 9 stock tanks Dry Cottonwood Creek Fencing Project • 6 miles of stream habitat protected with riparian fencing • 4 private landowners & DNRC & USFS • $57,325 total projected cost funded by Montana Fish wildlife and Parks

Photos: Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

The stock water pipeline project was an important step for improving rangeland health. The next step is to restore the vital riparian areas along the east valley’s streams. Now that the livestock have plenty of options for off-stream water, landowners are working to repair the trampled banks along the creeks. Beginning in 2010, private landowners, the DNRC and the USFS will build riparian pastures and install fencing along six miles of Dry Cottonwood Creek. These new fences, funded in part by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, will allow the streambanks along Dry Cottonwood Creek to rest and re-vegetate, which will improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.

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 Plowing and installing the pipeline.

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Flow Alterations. what’s the problem?

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stream’s natural flow pattern changes when people build dams, divert water into ditches and canals, or pump out groundwater or surface water. For instance, dams built for water storage lead to lower peak flows during spring runoff, affecting the sediment loads and water balance of the stream. However, dams also save water that can be released later in the year, increasing streamflows during the dry months.

 Headgates may leak excess water, causing landowners to divert more water from streams.  Installing a pivot sprinkler can improve irrigation efficiency, leaving more water in a stream.

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fixing streams on working lands.

Landowners are entitled to their water rights, but only so much water can be withdrawn from a stream without affecting its overall health. Dewatered creeks can’t provide enough water to plants along riparian areas, and the insect and fish populations suffer if water levels drop unnaturally low. Low flows are especially detrimental during late summer and fall, since less water in the stream leads to increased water temperatures that become too warm for trout.

Often, inefficient irrigation systems, such as leaky ditches or faulty headgates, may worsen low flow situations. Plus, diversions, ditches, and dams can block fish from reaching cooler headwaters that provide their spawning habitat. Fish can also become trapped by irrigation diversions when they migrate downstream at certain times of year because they may follow large ditches or canals long distances away from the stream.


What Causes It?

• Irrigation or stock water diversions that are inefficient or lack proper headgate control structures. • Inefficient on-farm irrigation. • Dams that restrict flows or change natural flow patterns. • Pumping from groundwater directly connected to the stream. • Over-appropriation of limited water (over-allocation of water rights). • Irrigation sysyems that divert water to new drainages.

How To Fix It.

• Improve leaky ditches or canals by lining or piping them to reduce the amount of water needed from the point of diversion to the place of use.

before

 Prickly Pear Creek has gone dry almost every year in recent memory, due to overallocation of surface water rights.

after

 After implementing voluntary lease agreements with area landowners, the stream now flows year-round.

• Install more efficient irrigation practices where appropriate. In certain cases, switching from flood irrigation to sprinklers can reduce the amount of water diverted from a stream or river. Also, switching the point of diversion from a losing or dewatered reach to a gaining or well-watered reach is sometimes an option. • Monitor irrigation diversions with proper measuring devices to prevent overdrawing from the stream, and install functioning headgates. • Develop cooperative drought management plans that encourage landowners along a stream to conserve water as stream flows drop during the late summer and early fall. • Identify water leasing opportunities with partners on page 20 for your property that restore instream flows for all or part of the irrigation season. The following options can increase cash flow for your agricultural operation, while protecting your water right: • short- and long-term leases • diversion source switches • flow triggered option agreements • salvage water leases • partial-season leases

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fixing streams on working lands. Thomas Herefords

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When Bruce Thomas talks about the ranch—Thomas Herefords, the purebred seed-stock operation that his family has built over generations—you can hear the pride in his voice.

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 Thomas family in front of Gold Creek. PRIVATE LAND STATE LAND FEDERAL LAND

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t’s almost impossible to drive through Gold Creek without seeing the distinctive white faces of Hereford cattle. And, if you happen to be looking south from Interstate 90, chances are good that those Herefords belong to the Thomas family.

With its deep roots in traditional agriculture, the Thomas ranch might seem like an unlikely setting for an ambitious restoration effort. But, Bruce explains, comprehensive change is precisely what Thomas Herefords has been working toward for the last few years. “It’s a three-stage project,” says Bruce, “we started with the idea of fencing the Gold Creek riparian area. To do that, we needed off-site water.” Stage one of the project improved the condition of the ranch’s riparian area without negatively impacting Bruce and Tammy’s ability to manage their livestock. On the ground, it translated into three miles of low-cost, wildlife-friendly electric

riparian fence, and a new pipeline for stock water that serves a handful of summer tanks and smaller winter water sources called Geotherms. Bruce has been especially happy with the Geotherms—made in the USA and locally available—which circulate natural, deep-source heat to keep a 3 to 5 gallon water reservoir from freezing. “Running them costs three cents on the dollar compared to electrical heaters, which makes it worthwhile to go the ‘green’ route,” says Bruce. Next up, stage two: the Thomas Herefords Ranch switched from flood irrigation to pivots, and completely redesigned its Gold Creek diversion. The positive impacts from this project, funded by Natural Resource Conservation Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, exceeded expectations from both agricultural and environmental perspectives. “The labor savings are a given,” Bruce says. “I don’t have to move dams or worry about adjusting my head gates. But the really amazing things are the enhancements to our riparian area. This last summer, F.W.P.


project profile “I don’t have to move dams or worry about adjusting my head gates. But the really amazing things are the enhancements to our riparian area.”

Bruce and Tammy view stage three of their restoration project as a final, essential piece of the puzzle. Their last big effort centers on changing the location of their corrals and bull development pens, which currently straddle a heavily impacted stretch of Gold Creek. “The original plan was to treat our waste in place, with berming and filtration strips,” Bruce says, “but it became obvious that the ideal outcome, given the possibility of flood events, was to move our entire operation away from the stream.” When it comes to stage three, the major hurdle is funding. Because Thomas Herefords is a registered seed-stock operation, they require a more complex corral system than the average cow-calf producer. Rebuilding these corrals in another location comes with a massive price tag, and Bruce is still struggling to raise enough money to make it happen.

Talking about these restoration efforts at Thomas Herefords, Bruce stresses the importance of flexibility, both on the part of the landowner and on that of agency personnel. He says the process has been a learning experience, and not always easy. When asked what kept him moving through the tough spots, and what got him started in the first place, he pauses for a moment. “You know, we could have sold this place for a whole lot of money. But we decided that what we want as a family goes beyond money. This is a way to improve our home.”

The Numbers • 3 miles of fence to create a riparian pasture along 1.5 miles of Gold Creek • 2 degrees cooler on average in Gold Creek than nearby streams (summer of 2008) • 7 off-stream water tanks installed along a new pipeline • 3 pivots installed: 1 full circle and 2 half-circles • 9 cubic feet per second of flow restored in Gold Creek • $786, 445 = projected cost of the entire project

 A Geotherm provides a frost-free winter water source.

 Installing the water line for a pivot sprinkler.

Photos: Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

measured a four-degree drop in stream temperature, and they expect to see even more benefits as the woody vegetation starts coming back in.”

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Nutrients. What Causes It?

what’s the problem?

• Concentrated animal waste or fertilizer near waterways contributes nutrients through storm runoff and by leaching into groundwater that eventually enters a stream.

N

 Too much algae chokes out other aquatic life, and can be a nuisance for irrigation upkeep and river recreation.

When human or animal waste enters our waterways, it causes rampant growth of algae. Besides coating the streambed with green slime, too much algae robs the water of life-sustaining oxygen, disrupting the food chain and choking out fish. Excessive algae also makes waters less appealing for recreational use and can clog irrigation intakes or even reduce the carrying capacity of ditches or canals.

• Human waste disposal from both wastewater treatment plants (direct discharge) and dense networks of septic systems (groundwater discharge that flows to streams).

Photos: Vicki Watson

utrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are basically the same thing as fertilizer. In streams, they come from the decomposition of organic debris, such as leaves or algae, from human and animal waste, and sometimes from the underlying geology. Small amounts of nutrients in streams are natural and important for aquatic life, but too much of anything can be a bad thing. The plants, insects, and fish living in streams in the upper Clark Fork watershed thrive on very low levels of nutrients.

• Clearing or removing native streamside vegetation: these plants act as a natural filter for nutrients, absorbing the nutrients in runoff and groundwater up to a certain level.

How To Fix It.

• Relocate animal feeding operations away from streams. • Keep manure or fertilizer piles at least 100 feet from streams, and cover them to prevent storm runoff. • Avoid applying fertilizer near waterways. • Install riparian fencing, and create a plan to carefully manage grazing in riparian pastures. • Develop off-stream water sources or water gaps for livestock. • Maintain or restore healthy native streamside vegetation, including woody species where appropriate, to help filter nutrient-rich runoff.

16

fixing streams on working lands.

• Avoid placing septic tanks too close to waterways, and encourage community wastewater or public sewer systems for multi-home subdivisions or dense developments.


b

Metals what’s the problem?

c

O

What Causes It?

• Different types of mining and ore processing over the past century have concentrated naturally occurring heavy metals by extracting them from our local rocks and then spreading waste products into the environment. • Historically, mine wastes such as waste rock or chemically processed tailings were dumped in or alongside streams and rivers where they eventually washed downstream, poisoning the water and occasionally spreading onto neighboring property. • Some mine wastes react chemically once they’re exposed to air or water, and the resulting acidic drainage can also leach into soil and streams, carrying toxic metals with it.

How To Fix It.

• Abandoned mines must be tested and studied to design an appropriate, site-specific reclamation and restoration plan that reduces or eliminates threats to people and the environment. • Reclamation of mine sites and restoring downstream areas can be extremely challenging, and often require partnerships between public agencies and private groups. • Contact a conservation partner (p.20) or the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for more information, and for a prioritized list of abandoned mines in the state.

ver 100 years of large-scale mining and smelting in Butte and Anaconda has left a legacy of contamination throughout much of the upper Clark Fork basin. But there are also hundreds of smaller mines in the foothills and mountains throughout the watershed. Some of these small mines have little to no environmental impact, but others have piles of toxic or hazardous wastes in unstable places, threatening neighboring properties, water users, public land, and fish and wildlife. Wastes from these mines may contain arsenic, mercury, lead, zinc, copper, cadmium, or other metals that, in high enough amounts, can be toxic to people, livestock, and aquatic life. Most of these old mines were abandoned long ago, leaving the costs and responsibility of cleanup to under-funded public agencies.

b Acidic drainage from old mining operations can pollute streams with high levels of toxic metals. C A bare patch of ground, or “slickens,” where mine waste prevents plants from growing.

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fixing streams on working lands. Spring Creek Mine Reclamation MISSOULA LEWIS & CLARK POWELL

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Today, few people would even notice the old scars of mining at Spring Creek … removing the abandoned mine’s tailings benefited all sorts of downstream critters and communities. STATE LAND

FEDERAL LAND

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fixing streams on working lands.

T

he Clark Fork is dotted with small abandoned hardrock mines, many of them dating back to the booming mining era of the late 19th century. These abandoned mines, little known to most of us, can contaminate the Clark Fork’s headwater streams. Seepage from these mines, including acid mine drainage, dissolved heavy metals, and byproducts like mercury or cyanide, threaten our streams and even pose risks to human health or irrigated crops.

7,500 cubic yards of mill tailings deposited in Spring Creek, a tributary to the North Fork of Cottonwood Creek.

The U.S. Forest Service and Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) have put plenty of effort into identifying and studying the risks posed by abandoned mines on public lands, including the Emery mine and mill site east of Deer Lodge. In 1998, the DEQ alerted the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest (BDNF) that this old copper/lead-zinc/silver mine complex, located on lands owned by the USFS, had

In 2001, the USFS funded a site investigation called an Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis (EE/CA) to develop different options for cleaning-up the mine waste. The EE/CA determined the best choice was a simple fix: move the tailings out of the stream’s way and store them somewhere dry, where they can no longer release toxic metals into the stream.

Since the DEQ focuses on private land cleanups, the responsibility for cleaning up the hazardous mine wastes fell to the USFS. Field inspections by the Minerals Administrator for the BDNF, Steve Kelley, soon showed that Spring Creek had eroded right through the old tailings dump, releasing heavy metals into the water that are toxic for fish and other stream life.

The nitty-gritty cleanup work kicked off in 2002, when Steve Kelley used funds


project profile

from a national USFS fund to hire MCS Environmental, a construction company out of Missoula. In partnership with the USFS, MCS designed a “fix” for Spring Creek with the goal of a finished product that blended into the natural landscape. First, MCS excavated a repository for the tailings on a high-and-dry bench about a quarter-mile from the stream. Next, they scooped out the tailings from the banks of Spring Creek and its floodplain and trucked the tailings to this repository. Once high and dry, the tailings were layered, compacted, and covered with an impermeable liner and then two feet of topsoil. The final steps were to plant grasses on the repository’s new soil cap, and replant the riparian area along Spring Creek with native grasses and shrubs. The USFS also installed riparian fences to keep cattle off the sites and actively controlled weeds in the area, which allowed the new vegetation

to take hold and thrive. Today, few people would even notice the old scars of mining at Spring Creek. The reclamation project was a success: removing the abandoned mine’s tailings benefited all sorts of downstream critters and communities. The stream’s water is healthier and fish, plants, and downstream irrigators no longer suffer the effects of toxic metals in Spring Creek.

b Photos: Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest

c

B An un-reclaimed abandoned mine dump on the BeaverheadDeerlodge National Forest. C Spring Creek immediately after restoration and reclamation, but before vegetation has grown.

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Conservation Partners.In The Upper Clark Fork.

T

hese partner groups will help you navigate the “who, what, and how� of fixing streams. They can also help you find money and write grants for the federal and state funding programs listed on the following pages. It pays to know what types of resources are provided to landowners looking to improve natural resources. A wide range of funds and services are available to benefit folks who are repairing streams, rivers, or wetlands, or working to enhance the conservation value on private land. We’re here to help landowners with conservation planning, irrigation efficiency projects, habitat and flow restoration, and more. In addition to these non-profit partners, your local Conservation Districts can provide invaluable technical and funding support for restoration projects.

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fixing streams on working lands.

Watershed Restoration Coalition Mission:

A landowner-led non-profit organization that restores and monitors water quality, fisheries, and wildlife, as well as protecting the heritage and open space of the Upper Clark Fork River Basin. Landowner Resources:

Partnering with landowners, stakeholders, and agency representatives interested in implementing Best Management Practices, watershed restoration projects, and environmental stewardship that conserve natural resources.

Clark Fork Coalition Mission:

A non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Clark Fork River basin. Landowner Resources:

1. Developing private and public land restoration projects on streams in the upper Clark Fork basin. 2. Managing partner for cow-calf operation and Superfund cleanup on Dry Cottonwood Creek Ranch, located between Racetrack and Galen. 3. Facilitating water right leases, other instream flow transactions and drought management plans that restore streamflow.

Contact:

406-660-1954 www.watershedrestorationcoalition.org

Contact:

406-542-0539 www.clarkfork.org


Five Valleys Land Trust Mission:

A community-based land trust that protects river corridors, wildlife habitat, agricultural lands, and scenic open space through conservation easements, restoration activities, public land exchanges, fee acquisitions, and other collaborative projects. Landowner Resources:

Providing assistance for the protection, stewardship, and restoration of private and public lands Contact:

406-549-0755 www.fvlt.org

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Mission:

A national non-profit organization working to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife and their habitat. Landowner Resources:

Conservation education, land protection, and stewardship programs dedicated to landowners interested in conserving their land for its agricultural values, elk and wildlife habitat and open spaces. Contact:

1-800-CALLELK www.rmef.org

Montana Trout Unlimited Mission:

A membership-based organization with local volunteer chapters that work to conserve, protect and restore coldwater fisheries and their watersheds. Landowner Resources:

Montana Trout Unlimited and its local chapters help fund and design stream restoration projects in the upper Clark Fork basin. Contact:

406-543-0054 www.montanatu.org

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Grants And Loans For Restoration.

montana Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation http://dnrc.mt.gov/cardd/loans_grants/ TYPE OF FUND

22

WHAT IT’S FOR

WHO CAN APPLY

HOW MUCH

WHEN TO APPLY

CONTACT

Watershed Planning Assistance Grants

Planning & education to develop conservation projects

Conservation Districts

up to $10,000

Quarterly

David Martin 444.4253

Conservation District HD 223 Grants

Planning, education, & feasibility studies to design projects

Conservation Districts

up to $15,000 Match encouraged.

Quarterly

Laurie Zeller 444.6667

Irrigation Development Grant

Planning or studies to develop irrigation projects

Local governments, businesses or landowners

up to $15,000

Anytime

Pat Riley 247.4413

Renewable Resource Grant Program

Irrigation system and dam repairs, or soil, water or forest conservation

Local governments, irrigation districts, Conservation Districts

up to $100,000 Match encouraged.

May 15 (even-numbered years)

Bob Fischer 444.6668

fixing streams on working lands.


Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation http://dnrc.mt.gov/cardd/loans_grants/ TYPE OF FUND

WHAT IT’S FOR

WHO CAN APPLY

HOW MUCH

WHEN TO APPLY

CONTACT

Renewable Resource Planning Grant

Planning or engineering for projects that lead to an RRGP proposal (previous)

Local governments, irrigation districts, Conservation Districts

up to $25,000

Anytime

Pam Smith 444.6668

Renewable Resource Loan Program (private)

Low-interest loans for private water development or irrigation improvements

Landowners, water user associations, ditch companies

up to $400,000 (individuals) up to $3,000,000 (organizations)

Anytime

Larry Bloxsom 444.6668

Renewable Resource Loan Program (public)

Low-interest loans for irrigation system and dam repairs, or soil, water or forest conservation

Local governments, irrigation districts, Conservation Districts

No set limit

Anytime

Bob Fischer 444.6668

Range Improvement Loan

Low-interest loans for range improvements like fencing, seeding, or stockwater development

Landowners or grazing associations

$75,000 10-year, 3% int

Anytime

Larry Bloxsom 444.6668

Reclamation and Development Grant

Reclaim land and water or mitigate damage from mining or minerals processing

Local governments or state agency

up to $300,000

May 15 (even-numbered years)

Greg Mills 444.6668

Reclamation and Development Planning Grant

Planning or engineering for projects that lead to an RRGP proposal (above)

Local governments

up to $50,000

Quarterly

Alicia Stickney 444.6668

Forest Pest Management Grant

Reduce susceptibility to bark beetles on private or state forested lands

Landowners or state agency

No set limit

Varies

Amy Kearny 542.4283

National Fire Plan Grants

Fuels mitigation, planning, education to reduce fire hazard in wildland-urban interface

Conservation Districts, homeowners associations, local governments

up to $300,000

August

Paula Short 542.4235

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Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/livingWithWildlife/grantProposals.html http://fwp.mt.gov/habitat/futureFisheries/ TYPE OF FUND

WHAT IT’S FOR

WHO CAN APPLY

HOW MUCH

WHEN TO APPLY

CONTACT

Future Fisheries

Restoration of stream and riparian habitat including fish screens, re-vegetation, and fencing

Landowners, Conservation Districts, local governments, non-profit groups

No set limit 50% match

December and June

Mark Lere 444.2432

Living With Wildlife Grants

Activities that promote successful coexistence with wildlife in suburban and urban situations

Non-profit organizations and government agencies

$5,000 Match encouraged

Annual

Joe Weigand 444.3065

Montana Department of Justice http://doj.mt.gov/lands/naturalresource/ TYPE OF FUND

WHAT IT’S FOR

WHO CAN APPLY

HOW MUCH

WHEN TO APPLY

CONTACT

Natural Resource Damage Program

Restoration or replacement of natural resources (fish and wildlife resources, water quality, recreational opportunites) damaged from mining and smelting in the upper Clark Fork

Landowners, local governments, non-profit organizations

No set limit Match encouraged

March

Michelle Golden 444.0205

Natural Resource Damage Program Planning Grants

Planning, studies or project development for large NRDP proposals (above), or any small projects

Landowners, local governments, non-profit organizations

up to $25,000 Match encouraged

Anytime

Michelle Golden 444.0205

Montana Department of Environmental Quality http://www.deq.state.mt.us/wqinfo/nonpoint/319Grants.mcpx TYPE OF FUND

24

WHAT IT’S FOR

WHO CAN APPLY

HOW MUCH

WHEN TO APPLY

CONTACT

319 Grants

Water quality improvements like stream restoration or groundwater protection

Local governments, non-profit groups, state agencies

Varies, but up to $200,000 40% match

September

Robert Ray 444.5319

319 Mini-Grants

Education and outreach related to water quality improvements

Local governments, non-profit groups, state agencies

up to $1,500 40% match

February and July

Robert Ray 444.5319

fixing streams on working lands.


federal U.S. Department of Agriculture: Natural Resource & Conservation Service and Farm Service http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/ TYPE OF FUND

WHAT IT’S FOR

WHO CAN APPLY

HOW MUCH

WHEN TO APPLY

CONTACT

Landowners or lessees of private or state land

up to $300,000 25% match

Annually

NRCS Missoula 829.3395 NRCS Deer Lodge 846.1703 NRCS Philipsburg 859.3291

Wetland Reserve Program

Restoring and protecting wetlands and adjacent uplands, including floodplains and streamside habitat

Landowners

Varies based on type of project. Cost-share required for certain easements.

Annually

NRCS Missoula 829.3395 NRCS Deer Lodge 846.1703 NRCS Philipsburg 859.3291

Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program

Conservation easements to protect valuable agricultural land

Landowners with adjusted gross income <$1,000,000

up to 50% of the value of easement

Contact local office

Carrie Mosely, NRCS 587.6967 Dennis Dellwo 587.6748

Conservation Innovation Grants

Developing and adopting conservation technologies like efficient irrigation, grazing plans, or on-farm energy

Conservation Districts, irrigation districts, public agencies, private organizations and indivduals

under $75,000 50% match from applicant

Annually

Kris Berg, NRCS 587.6849 Carrie Mosely, NRCS 587.6967

Conservation Reserve Program

Temporarily taking acres out of ag production for resource conservation and other conservation practices

Landowners or lessees of private or state land

Varies National average is $50/acre/year

Anytime

FSA Missoula 829.3395 Deer Lodge 846.2337

Environmental Quality Incentives Program

Implementing all types of conservation-related agricultural practices

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www.watershedrestorationcoalition.org WRC: 660-1954 USDA in Deer Lodge: 846-1703 Renee Myers: 660-1954

Clark Fork Coalition 406 542 0539 www.clarkfork.org

This guide was printed with support from the Weeden Foundation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Landowner's Guide  

A guide to fixing streams on working lands in the upper Clark Fork watershed.