2018 Strategic Planning Meeting Minutes

Date: March 10th, 2018
Location: Jorgenson’s Inn

Attendees:  Dave Stagliano, Braden Lewis, Alan Shaw, Sherry Meador, Pete Peterson, Marilyn Alkire, Bill Ryan, Dave Meador, Mike Kuhnert, Jerry Lapier, Kevin Cumley, Larry Copenhaver.

Facilitator:  Erin Olsen, Kierra Davis

Meeting called to order at 10am:  UMOWA Chair, Alan Shaw, welcomed everyone and led introductions.

UMOWA projects:

Macroinvertebrate studies: 

Dave Stagliano presented data on 2017 upper Missouri macroinvertebrate study and compared with his work on this with the past 2 years.  The plan is for one more year of study then publish results in a peer reviewed article.  Studies have shown that mayfly/caddisfly/stonefly (EPT) organisms are declining in numbers resulting in smaller amounts of hatching bugs.  The benthic invertebrates, living in the mud, are increasing significantly. Flushing demonstration plots showed a dramatic decrease in benthic organic matter but that it bounced back by fall.  New Zealand Mud snails were knocked back for good.  Lack of flushing flows increases sediment and nutrients, exacerbating the negative effects on the bug life.  Last good flushing flow was in 2012. 

Dave’s report on 2017 Smith River invertebrate study showed that an increased water temperature has bumped up bug population.  However, there has been an overall decrease in EPT’s.  Abundance of crayfish (25-30/sq meter) were identified working their way upstream.  The Smith shows significant silt and high nutrient levels due to riparian degradation upriver.  Need buffers.  FWP grants available to establish riparian buffers.

Water Quality studies: 

Braden Lewis reported on Missouri’s water quality studies for 2016 and 2017.  Nitrogen and Phosphorus (nutrients) increased dramatically from 2016 to 2017 and from summer to fall.  Plants take up nutrients when growing and release it after a hard freeze which explains difference of nutrient level in water from summer to fall.  Warm weather throughout fall of 2016 and early freeze in 2017 may have been cause of high nutrient levels differences between years. This year, 2018, tests will help to determine long-term trend.  UMOWA also plans to schedule an additional set of tests in August to help evaluate nutrient levels in relation to weather patterns.  Plan is to incorporate NW Energy data as well to find point source of high nutrient levels.

Braden reported on Smith River water quality tests collected by SRHP.  Tests showed significant increases in nutrient levels as well.  Additional water quality tests will be collected in 2018 in collaboration with DEQ and its algae study.

Website development: 

Sherry Meador and Pete Peterson reported on the new website.  It will have the same address and should be up by early April.  It will include better menus and resources.  UMOWA was advised to include more links to collaborating agencies, businesses, and other non-profits.

Database: 

Pete reported that UMOWA is incorporating a new database, Boomerang, that will do a better job of keeping track of donors, membership, and communications, than the previous database at a much better cost.

Guide Ambassador Program: 

Alan Shaw reported on UMOWA’s development of a program, based on the Henrys Fork Foundation’s program, to encourage guides to provide client names to UMOWA for donations/memberships.  UMOWA will hold a guide gathering April 14th to encourage the program.  There was discussion as to the possessiveness of client names and the unlikelihood they would be shared – different guide situation than HFF’s.  Offer of free gear may or may not make a difference.  Program will encourage guides to discuss UMOWA and its values to the watershed – offer a one-year free membership to each client and use their names for marketing purposes.  

Bureau of Reclamation Flushing Flows: 

Alan and Pete have met with BOR to discuss value of flushing flows.  Hoping to work with Stephanie Micek, the Bureau’s chief over Canyon Ferry reservoir, to schedule a significant flushing flow.  Need to decide when and how much.

Fundraising: 

Marilyn Alkire has spent past year “friend raising” in hopes to raise enough money to hire an Executive Director, open an office and have a staff member.  It has been difficult making contacts with people identified in the past but continue to meet people interested in the river.  Alan reported that the December letter writing campaign was successful, and event at Windbag Saloon raised $6000.  June fundraising/awareness event in Craig will be heavily promoted.

Water Summit: 

Sherry, Pete and Braden reported on DNRC’s first State Water Summit.  The state climate assessment report (http://montanaclimate.org/) was very interesting and identified a continued trend of earlier runoffs, more rain than snow, and longer dryer summers.  They also pointed out economic demographics of the state will soon demonstrate that over 50% of income comes from investments/trusts, and that 20% of the population is over 55 yrs old.  This will impact how the water systems are valued.

Strategic Directives

Monitoring: 

There was discussion on the value of continued monitoring of macroinvertebrates and water quality for one more year to understand trends based on weather patterns.  Monitoring needs to occur above Holter Dam and in upstream reservoirs to determine source of high nutrient levels and determine if changes can be made.  UMOWA was encouraged to collect data from NW Energy, PPL, and upstream watershed groups, then determine what water quality information is still needed. 

There was further discussion of the urgent need for aquatic plant studies between Holter Dam and Cascade.  It is planned to make this study a top priority in the very near term. Peterson and Meador were tasked to explore and identify possible scientists that could design and supervise a plan for UMOWA.  UMOWA will check again with FWP to see what studies have been conducted beyond the aquatic invasive species in the Missouri and fill in gaps on missing information.

Objective of monitoring projects is to collect information that identifies the issues and can be used to educate and advocate for change.

Organizational Growth: 

There was consensus that education and outreach to the growing Missouri River community was imperative.  It was suggested the Board incorporate a Science Advisor to help evaluate data and use it appropriately.  Board needs to be sure to keep working with other groups, local TU’s, etc., and to engage local philanthropists.

Objective – currently have 80 members and would like to have 3 times that number by end of year with help of guides; expand board membership; employ an executive director and staff within 2 yrs.

Boat wash station: 

UMOWA had planned to install a boat wash station, capable of heating water sufficiently to eliminate aquatic invasive aquatics (AIS), at the Trout Shop in Craig.  There was discussion as to whether boat wash water should be heated given there are no aquatic invasive species identified in the Missouri as of the present time. New Zealand mud snails are present at this time however these are not classified as AIS. Heated water (to 150 degrees)  increases liability and costs.  Alternatively, a boat wash station with the capability of heated water in the future, would get people in the habit of washing their boats and be available when aquatic invasive species come our way.

Objective – protect the Upper Missouri River from AIS and provide public information about AIS.

Local economy/ fishery: 

There was a lot of discussion as to how to engage the guides.  Some thought it was hopeless even though the guides often are a significant connection between the clients and the river.   Ambassador guide program may help connect to more members.  UMOWA will promote guide “heros” on their website.  UMOWA will continue to keep the public informed on its website and promote its new and improved Facebook page.

Objective – increase membership/donors; increase community connection to the river.

Restoration: 

Currently restoring banks in collaboration with FWP and NW Energy, with help of boy scouts, across from Wolf Creek Bridge boat ramp.  Group discussed facilitating restoration project with Sterling Ranch across from Craig boat ramp (in collaboration with FWP, TU, NW Energy, and Land Reliance).  Another potential bank project was river right to high bank below Wolf Creek bridge boat ramp. There was a suggestion to sponsor a river cleanup day in late August or Fall when fishing is slow and after the recreational users have decreased river use.

Objective – restore banks to decrease sediments; remove garbage; increase the health of the river and UMOWA’s presence. 

Engagement with decision makers: 

It was discussed that UMOWA should pursue good contact people with state and federal agencies, to use the data they’ve collected as well as UMOWA’s, and to coordinate meetings about nutrient trends and other information (Science Advisor helpful), in order to figure out what can and should be done.

Objective – Encourage transparency of information; facilitate effective discussions; use information to advocate for change.   

Meeting adjourned 2:00pm