November Project Updates
Ninemile project update:
Ninemile Creek current phase of restoration has been underway since this July with a massive effort to reclaim and restore more than 1 mile of the creek that was damaged by historic placer mining. Dredge mining radically altered the floodplain in the 1940s, leaving a series of disconnected stream channels and dredge ponds that reduced fish populations, led to severe bank erosion, and impaired natural river processes. While construction crews from Glacier Excavating of Eureka are working this year to level placer mine tailings piles, rebuild the floodplain and reconstruct streambanks, the early phases of the Ninemile Creek project which were started in 2014 through 2016 have begun to show remarkable recovery, with streambanks and floodplains revegetating, and beaver, birds and migratory fish returning to the area. This project has taken more than a decade of planning to lead to the current project success. TU’s project Manager Paul Parson already has another phase of the project fully funded for next year, and this huge body of work could actually be completed in the next few years.
Little Blackfoot River project update:
The Tramway Creek Mine Reclamation Project is a cooperative effort between Montana DEQ, Trout Unlimited, Helena National Forest, Deer Lodge Valley Conservation District, Powell County and private landowners. The upper segment of the Little Blackfoot River is listed as impaired for exceedances of heavy metals arsenic, cadmium, copper, cyanide, and lead due to eroding mine tailings and draining mine adits. In 2021, contractors from Olympus Technical Services in Helena removed more than 1,000 cubic yards of mine waste from the banks of the Little Blackfoot River and safely capped the material in a repository. Contractors then rebuilt the streambanks using a mix of rock, logs, brush and willow cuttings to stabilize the bank help the site recover naturally in the long term. This activity is the first phase of a multi-project effort to cleanup these abandoned mine sites in the Little Blackfoot River valley and improve fisheries and water quality.
East Fork Bitterroot project update:
TU has had a busy couple years in the Bitterroot. Last year, we installed two fish screens in the Upper West Fork Bitterroot and East Fork Bitterroot, with help from Bitterroot National Forest, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks the Bitterroot Chapter of TU and Montana TU. Jackson Contractor Group and Rocky Mountain Aggregate were also a major contributors to the East Fork Screen, donating rock, concrete and their skills in fabrication and installation. Together, these two projects reconnected a whopping 82 miles of bull trout habitat! This year, our work has focused on designing a series of fish screens on Skalkaho Creek, one of the top migratory cutthroat streams in the valley. We've also partnered with Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge on a project to reconnect and restore North Burnt Fork Creek as it runs through the Refuge. We'll be looking for public feedback on this project in the coming months, so stay tuned for opportunities to participate.