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French Creek Shot

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is installing a fish barrier on French Creek to  restore native species. Work to remove the non-native species will begin next year.

Editor's note: This story was updated at 9:30 a.m. Friday to reflect the following correction. Moving a portion of lower French Creek will prevent the deposit of 800 tons of sediment in the creek each year.

The Bureau of Reclamation announced this month a grant of $86,610 to enable the Big Hole Watershed Committee to finish a restoration project on French Creek in the Big Hole River watershed.

Sen. Steve Daines, a Republican, secured the funding through the appropriations process and voted for the bill that funded the Bureau of Reclamation, said his Katie Schoettler, Daines’ communications director.

The money will go toward removing historical mine waste and then creating four acres of wetlands. The wetlands will be near a new 4,000 feet of creek bed in lower French Creek that workers are building through the center of the floodplain, said Pedro Marques, Big Hole Watershed Committee executive director

This is moving the creek away from cliff walls that send about 800 tons of sediment into the Big Hole River each year. French Creek is a tributary of Deep Creek, which feeds into the Big Hole.

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“The whole project is really key to establishing the habitat that Arctic grayling and westlope cutthroat trout will need after the fish reintroduction project,” Marques said.

Despite controversy, the fish reintroduction project in French Creek is well underway. Some local residents were outraged about a year ago over the plan to remove non-native trout, put up a fish barrier and create around 40 miles of waterway dedicated to westslope cutthroat trout and Arctic grayling. Both are native fish and both struggle. 

Construction on the fish barrier in French Creek near Wise River began earlier this year and is expected to be complete by mid-September, said Jim Olsen, Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist.

Starting next year, FWP will introduce rotenone — a naturally occurring but potent poison — to kill off the other types of trout not native to French Creek above the barrier.

Olsen said removing the unwanted species will require at least two summers.

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