UMW Waterway Watch Bulletin: June 2021

A Word From Your Waterway Watchdogs
Watch Bulletin: June 2021

Welcome to the Upper Missouri Waterkeeper’s Waterway Watch Bulletin! This summer we’ll be patrolling the waterways of the Upper Missouri River Basin – from the Missouri, to Ten Mile Creek, to the Beaverhead, to the Gallatin – and keeping you up-to-date on all things clean water and healthy rivers. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for frequent updates! Here’s the latest word on some happenings across the Basin.

Will Montanans know the cause of the latest fish kill?
ICYMI, on May 18 anglers reported dead fish in the Bear Trap Canyon stretch of the Madison River. We got tipped-off about the kill from a fellow river advocate and documented the sad scene on May 21. By late afternoon that day, news broke in papers after Fish, Wildlife & Parks reported 814 dead whitefish, 11 brown trout, 6 rainbows, and 3 suckers. Preliminary lab results reported by FWP have been inconclusive and other state agencies (namely DEQ and DNRC) tasked with protecting our state’s clean water have been silent.

Unfortunately, these fish die-offs aren’t new and will likely become more common as Montana’s waterways and blue-ribbon trout streams are facing a challenging reality under the new Gianforte administration.

What happened on the Madison River: proliferative kidney disease (PKD), lesions, anoxic water from the flushing of the dam, high water temperatures? We’re still waiting for conclusive results from the experts, but a fish kill in May is extremely troubling and should invoke an immediate response by state officials. As we say at UMW: if you see something, say something. River users, advocates, and citizens are often the first on scene and vital to protecting our waterways. See below for ways to reach out to Montana’s leading Upper Missouri River watershed watchdogs – UMW.

What’s with the gunk on the Mighty Mo?
It’s only the beginning of June, yet we’re already seeing nasty gunk coating much of the river bottom from Holter to Craig on the mainstem Missouri. Water clarity is way down and old benthic algae growth is still alive. But the shift away from science-based analyses and pollution controls is well under way by state agencies. Will the Mighty Missouri River be the next victim of a fish die-off or a noxious neon-green algal bloom this July or earlier? Will our state agencies and elected officials continue to put water quality on the back burner? Our rivers and the $7.1 billion outdoor economy deserve better than this. As Montana’s longest running weekly columnist aptly put it about our rivers, ‘clean and cold and more precious than gold.’

Montana’s facing drought conditions – and a heat wave
This week’s drought monitor continues to show alarming data – 85.5% of Montana is experiencing abnormally dry conditions, and 30.7% of the state is under severe drought. Although we’re relieved by recent precipitation, this below average water year combined with high temperatures in the forecast will exacerbate the challenges our waterways, water quality, aquatic life, and fish populations are already up against. Keep your fingers crossed for more rain – our rivers will thank you!

See something, say something – or rather, text something!
See something suspicious on the river? We want to know! We’ll be performing pollution patrols on the headwaters this summer, but we could always use extra sets of eyes. Help us watchdog the Upper Missouri River Basin by calling or texting 406.570.2202 with any questions, concerns, or general updates. You can also reach out via our website or on social media through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It takes a village to protect fishable, swimmable, drinkable water!