Big Sky Water – Bozeman Public Mtg 9/18 + Talking Points

Join us next Monday Sept. 18th 2017 at 6pm in the Bozeman Public Library to learn more about the challenges and opportunities confronting clean water in Big Sky, MT.

Aerial view of Big Sky, MontanaFor the past 9 months Upper Missouri Waterkeeper has been an official stakeholder in the ‘Big Sky Sustainable Water Solutions Forum.’  The Forum was created as a means to gather community input on how Big Sky can best address the diverse challenges arising from its growth and, dare we say, success as an outdoors-based town.

By years end the Forum intends to create a water resources management plan for Big Sky. As part of that process, the Forum is hosting public events – like next Monday’s meeting at the Bozeman Public Library – to share facts about the status quo and near term challenges, and to hear public comment!

One of the most pressing issues confronting Big Sky and local waterways is what to do about wastewater. The largest regional wastewater treatment system – the Big Sky Water and Sewer District – is almost at capacity, and without capacity there can be no more development. Yet with intense development pressure (CrossHarbor and Boyne have each produced reports suggesting Big Sky will double in size by 2025) new rumors have surfaced concerning a proposal to discharge treated wastewater directly into the Gallatin River.

Put simply, Big Sky is at a crossroads where it must choose how it will grow; we hope you will join us in saying Low Impact Development and water recycling & re-use policies – not a wastewater pipe into the Gallatin River – should be part of that future.

If you care about healthy rivers, clean water, and responsible development, now is the time to make your voice heard. Below is a summary of key water resource issues in Big Sky, and suggested talking points for offering public comment at the meeting.

7 Reasons to Care About Big Sky’s Water Problems

  • Big Sky, MT straddles the Madison Mtn Range; it contributes headwater flows to and directly affects the health of tributaries to the Gallatin River and Madison River. Degraded headwater streams hurt downstream river health, including your fishing and boating opportunities!
  • In the 40+ years since Chet Huntley began the Big Sky, MT experiment, the quality and character of local landscapes and waterways have significantly changed. From 1990-2005 more than 25% of privately-owned Big Sky landscapes changed from forest or meadows to roads, houses, or parking lots.
  • Big Sky’s economic success and countless local jobs rest directly upon the region’s promise of a clean, healthy environment. More specifically, the fabulous Gallatin trout fishery is one of the most sensitive ecological resources most affected by new pollution common to development.
  • The region’s history with water resources is not pretty: lawsuits, building moratoriums, illegal water pollution, and millions of dollars later, Big Sky remains unincorporated, without a responsible public works agency able to protect safe drinking water, local streams, or wildlife from pollution, where most land use and policy decisions are made by private developers, big land owners, and East Coast investment firms.
  • Big Sky is projected to roughly double in size by 2025 and alongside this intense, quick growth comes growing pains, particularly for local waterways, several of which are already degraded by nutrient and sediment pollution.
  • Discussions and decisions are happening now regarding how the largest regional water treatment entity – the Big Sky Water & Sewer District – will handle the predicted doubling of Big Sky, including whether the District will seek a wastewater discharge permit for the Gallatin River.
  • Stopping further land or water degradation can happen only with informed citizen and elected official engagement.

Talking Points for Public Comment

  • Big Sky should take responsibility for its future and invest in alternative wastewater management, recycling, and re-use. The Gallatin is too special a river and resource to allow the risks and pollution associated with direct discharge of wastewater.
  • The Gallatin River is known across the nation for its world-class scenery, and some of the most dramatic landscapes are right here in our backyard. The iconic views, fisheries, and local outdoors-based economy it supports must be protected for current and future generations and are no place for a new wastewater discharge.
  • Big Sky should invest in a “super public works agency” to independently manage wastewater, potable water supply, and land use development, construction and stormwater pollution in a responsible manner using science and the law.
  • Any Big Sky water resource plan should create mandatory commitments to restoring already polluted waterways, and to implementing conservation-based land use design, or clustering development away from natural features in order to preserve those places.
  • Dedication of open space within local creek corridors is needed to ensure protection of these river’s  biological and ecological functions, preservation of natural and scenic character, and enhancement of public river access and trails.
  • Preserving or restoring open space right along the river should be maximized as it will protect against bank erosion and water quality degradation, and provide habitat for terrestrial and aquatic life. Many areas along the river will be developed in the next 20 years, and more public access to the river will be needed to support growing numbers of urban residents and visitors.

Public Comment Tips:

  • Keep your comments focused.
  • Consider emphasizing one particular location that you visit regularly.
  • Frame your comments by stating why changes are needed and reasonable.
  • Identify the specific things you value about a waterway or the community, how they might be threatened, and how new policies or changes will protect them. For example, you could share your love of fishing, explain your concern that habitat pollution from a wastewater discharge into the Gallatin threatens water quality, and point out that investing in alternative water recycling and re-use technologies will remove the need for wastewater discharge and better support fish populations.

Want to print out all of this information? Great – click here for a printable PDF version.

You can also submit public comment by clicking here and sending an e-mail directly to the Big Sky Water Solutions Forum facilitator, Karen Flippovich. If you submit individual comments please CC us ( and send a copy our way; we want to know your concerns and help you raise your voice on behalf of clean water and healthy rivers!

Last but not least, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to help us fight for clean water and healthy rivers. We can’t do our work without you – take a stand with us and make a generous gift to support our work fighting for a responsible Big Sky and clean Gallatin River!