Gone fishin': one reporter found fish in a Superfund site

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks fisheries biologist Jason Lindstrom weighs a Westslope cutthroat pulled from Silver Bow Creek in this photo taken in 2015.

What is limiting the resurgence of fish in Silver Bow Creek?

That is a question Citizens Technical Environmental Committee, better known as CTEC, is posing this week. CTEC is an all-volunteer board that tries to translate the complexities of EPA’s Superfund for ordinary citizens.

CTEC is hosting a symposium at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives, 17 W. Quartz St. A variety of speakers will give presentations on what they each know about the potential problems plaguing a creek that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars put toward its repair and restoration. 

But despite all that money, fish numbers remain low close to ten years after fish first began to reappear after about a century of damage from mining and smelting.

Jason Lindstrom, Fish, Wildlife and Parks fish biologist, gave a presentation last fall to talk about the problems in Silver Bow Creek and the low fish numbers.

According to a FWP October 2017 fish sampling, an average of 10 westslope cutthroat trout were found within a one-mile stretch around Fairmont Road.

For comparison, FWP found close to 2,000 fish in German Gulch.

Lindstrom, who will be one of the speakers Thursday, doesn’t know exactly what could be keeping the numbers low, though he has some ideas. One could be that the 16-year-long effort to remove metals in the creek is still new enough that the creek needs more time for the restoration work to fully improve habitat conditions for the fish.

But there are other potential causes, such as nutrients getting into the creek, warm temperatures, agriculture and metals.

Joe Griffin, a hydrogeologist who sits on the CTEC board, said “nobody knows” exactly what the source of the problem is.

“That’s just it,” he said. “It’s time to start the discussion. It includes Superfund but goes beyond Superfund.”

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Nat'l Resources / General Reporter

Environmental and natural resources reporter for the Montana Standard.

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