“And one bull trout got way up in an irrigation ditch and died.”

by jhwygirl

Bull trout are a threatened and endangered species.

Are irrigators exempt from complying from the Federal Endangered Species Act?

This stuff goes on every day. Irrigation diversion structures blocking main channels of important fisheries, large and small. No fish passage, no fish screens required.

In the lets-not-require-too-much-of-anyone mentality of Montana, it’s all voluntary.

In other words, rarely ever done.

MEPA? Schmepa.

Some of these structures are built and torn down every year. Others are effectively overflow dams, that are annually given the OK by an assortment of local and state agencies. I think even the Army Corp of Engineers exempts these from environmental review.

Kinda like how the EPA has been exempting carbon dioxide from regulations which was great for coal-fired plants.

I’ve asked – What is Montana without its rivers and streams?

We can champion our rivers and streams and fisheries – use that for selling Montana as a vacation spot in ads around the world – but if we are going to criticize FWP for shooting a Boone and Crockett record bighorn sheep for what it takes away from the citizens of Montana, we should be looking at the statewide unregulated takings of threatened and endangered bull trout from our public waterways.

Tourism is the fastest growing economic sector in Montana. Apparently fishing and our streams and rivers have nothing to do with it, author Norman Maclean not withstanding.

We can also sing songs and laud the tear-down of the Milltown dam – but with structures above it, on the Blackfoot, and another more permanent structure like it below, what in the hell are we celebrating? Really? I mean – think of all the fish tagging going on. Just where are they actually getting to? Where should they be able to get to?

This picture, below, of a diversion on the Clearwater river near its confluence with the Blackfoot – both bull trout fisheries. Maybe a better word instead of fisheries is habitat. It is put in place each year by using bulldozers in the river, and torn out each fall, again, by using bulldozers in the river.

Imagine the state of our fisheries if these things were required to provide both fish passage and fish screening.

(Ed. note: This post was corrected after clarification from elkamino.)

  1. elkamino

    well said, i’ve often thought the same.

    the diversion dam pic though is i believe on the clearwater, above its confluence w/the blackfoot. boaters know this drop to warn that there’s across-the-stream barbed wire ahead(!), another part of the challenge of public waterways running through private.

    • Thank you elkamino. The person who had sent it to me described it as “near the confluence of the Blackfoot and the Clearwater” and told me who’s ditch it was. That person’s property is on both sides of the Blackfoot…ironically, under conservation easement paid for by Missoula County.

      You bring up the other very important issue with these things – Thanks – which is public access.

      These things block public waterways. We know the uproar when private people buy up land and block of openly-traveled public roads…but yet on rivers this is allowed to continue.

      Irrigators need their water. I get that. That doesn’t absolve from compliance with MEPA and NEPA and the Endangered Species Act.

    • Jim Lang

      I’ve boated that section of the clearwater many times. There are fences that extend across the river but they have clearly marked sections for boaters to pass through. No problem at all, unless you are boating in the dark.

      • elkamino

        its been years since i’ve paddled through there so i can’t say. mid-90’s you could find sketchy, water-level wire there. glad its been cleaned up.

  2. ladybug

    Where’s the State’s “incidental take permit”‘ for bull trout? DNRC is currently accepting public comments on a “Habitat Conservation Plan” to insulate it from “takings” lawsuits resulting from its timber management practices (25’ buffers on bull trout spawning streams). DEQ has an irrigation policy and “program,” which apparently has no interest in recovering or maintaining bull trout habitat and threatened populations.

  3. Big Swede

    I don’t know what you guys are worried about.

    When s787 passes a mud puddle we’ll be controlled by the govt.

  4. Big Swede

    Let’s try that again.

  5. ladybug

    S.787? Government control won’t do much for bull trout, or “you (us) guys” if it won’t clean up and prevent pullution. Bulldozers in rivers is control? More cold, clean water is the habitat element bull trout need most. Delay is the govt’s game. No critical habitat yet, and no recovery plan either. Hope is fading. Ya’ wanna’ catch ’em, ya’ gotta’ grow ’em.

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