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This Week in Fish and Wildlife: Flushing the Beaverhead River

Posted at 9:25 AM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-19 11:25:21-04

Andrea Jones with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks joined MTN News to discuss the planned flush on the Beaverhead River.

Along with partners from the East Bench Joint Board and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will conduct a flushing flow out of
Clark Canyon Reservoir beginning Thursday, April 19 to help move potentially damaging sediment deposited in the Beaverhead River by Clark Canyon Creek.

This action, agreed upon by the partners, is intended to improve river health and avoid events like those of recent years in which large amounts of sediment were deposited into the Beaverhead from Clark Canyon Creek resulting in severe declines in fish population. These events randomly occur after large rain or snowstorms and coincide with low flow releases from the Reservoir.

The world-renowned trout fishery has seen trout numbers decline by 50-percent following large sediment deposits like these, numerous groups of concerned citizens, anglers and outfitters sought a solution to the problem.

After studies were conducted to determine the cause of these events and what it would take to avoid the effects on the fish population, the partners decided to annually store 2,100 acre-feet of water and conduct a flushing flow from the Reservoir to get the sediment moving.

The first flushing flow was released in 2017 and demonstrated effectiveness in clearing sediment and improving river health.

River users should be aware that the flushing flow regime will be released April 19 through April 22. Beaverhead River discharges will increase from overwinter releases of 75 cubic feet per second to 600 cubic feet per second on April 19 and will be maintained near that level until the reservoir elevation is below 5546.1 feet and the flood pool is emptied.

The Beaverhead River supports 2,000 to 3,000 trout per mile in its upper reach. About 40,000 angler days per year are seen on the river and several million dollars are spent in the area to come and enjoy the river.