Wade fishing in the Bitteroot
Photo by Merle Ann Loman
Rip-rap series indexlinks will open on original site examiner.com
When are fishing, floating, canoeing, or on a family outing on the river, one will see a variety of stream bank stabilization (rip-rap) projects. You might even see a bulldozer working on the bank or in the river.
These projects will cause major disturbance to soils and vegetation and turbidity or “clouding” of the water. This article will provide resources for information about the permitting and administration process for the projects/activities. In listening to comments from the public, some are interested, some are concerned. The public is asking questions and needs to know where to find answers.
On Sunday, March 21, six interested Trout Unlimited (TU) members floated a stretch of the middle Bitterroot River. In this group was the Montana TU Executive Director, Montana TU Council Chairman, three fly fishing outfitters and guides and a Bitterroot Conservation District (BCD) Supervisor. I had the privilege of accompanying them. The day began with a clear sky, but soon a wind picked up. Some clouds rolled in and the air temperature dropped. As one might guess, with three boats fairly close together and much to talk about; the fishing was reasonable but not great. That didn’t matter; fishing was an important objective but not the only one. This group was also floating in order to view and discuss several bank stabilization projects in a middle section of the river.
The river is considered a free-stone stream with many banks composed of highly erosive glacial till that will change with EVERY high water event. What naturally holds these banks together is the willow, dogwood, cottonwood and other riparian plants and root systems. We can try to stabilize a bank with harder material, but including plenty of natural vegetation and woody debris is most appealing to the trout. The dilemma is how to protect houses built on the river while maintaining healthy trout habitat which includes clean, clear water.
Part One of this article shares photos and talks about some projects the group viewed.
Part Two provides basic information about what projects need to be permitted and from whom, and has links to sites with more detailed information about the laws and the agencies that administer them.
Part Three shares comments and questions from public and the group that floated March 21.
Part Four shares a tool that allows the public to lodge a complaint against a project or activity and talks about other forums and ways to weigh in on the process.
This series of 5 articles (including this introduction) was written for Merle's Outdoor Recreation column. To see it in the original format visit The Bitterroot River – protecting the river, fish habitat and homes on Examiner.com.
The Bitterroot River – an ever shifting dilemma by Michael Howell
Bitterroot Conservation District
1709 North 1st
Hamilton, Montana 59840
(406)-363-1444 ext 101
Read or download a PDF file of the NATURAL STREAMBED AND LAND PRESERVATION ACT OF MONTANA,
ADMINISTERED BY CONSERVATION DISTRICTS at
If you need a PDF reader application you can download one for free at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html