Off-stream storage in Big Hole is needed
Thanks to The Montana Standard editorial team for the timely reminder of the importance of establishing off-stream storage for our beloved Big Hole River. Many parts of the river are now below 200 cfs, and as a result an 18-mile section of the river was closed Thursday to fishing, along with another section from Saginaw Bridge, which closed Friday. This occurred in a year we saw some record high flows in the spring and above average flows through June.
How quickly conditions change and once again the river is suffering from dehydration.
The 2015 Montana Water Plan discussed opportunities for storing spring runoff and described the Gallatin and Big Hole watersheds as being more attractive from a hydrologic standpoint because the existing storage capacity is small compared to the total flow produced.
The plan also had long-term recommendations to work with the Legislature to make funding available to share in the cost of developing additional water storage infrastructure and it was felt that public-private partnerships would be the most likely to succeed.
Maintaining adequate in-stream flow remains the most serious problem facing Montana rivers and streams today and tomorrow. Let's all work together and champion a project for off-stream storage in the Big Hole watershed. The local economy and ecosystem will reap the benefits for years to come.
-- Paul Siddoway, M.D., Butte