The Run Of The River
May 31, 2017 Volume 2 Issue 1
Annual Meeting June 17th
Don’t forget UMOWA’s annual meeting June 17, 2017. Free barbecue and some great information on the state of the river. This is your chance to support the good work of UMOWA and have a good time, with good friends.
The Case For Flushing Flows
The Case for Flushing Flows
The history of regulated river flows goes back to the installation of Canyon Ferry Dam. Prior to that time there was no regulation of flows as both Hauser built in 1915 and Holter built in 1917 are run of the river and have no storage capacity. With the addition of Canyon Ferry the regulation of the dams was concerned primarily with flood control and electrical generation. Until the early 1980’s the releases from the dam were designed it accommodate power needs. As a result, the releases could fluctuate from day to day and hour to hour depending upon the power needs.
In the 80’s it was determined that the flows which fluctuated from hour to hour to accommodate peak power generation were detrimental to the fishery and a safety hazard. An agreement was reached that the peaking would be replaced with more constant flows and the fisheries blossomed. However, now that Montana has been experiencing low water years another problem has surfaced. The lack of high water pulses has resulted a silt buildup in the river bed and the biology of the river changed.
The silting has been thought to be part of the reason for the increase of weed beds in the river. In recent years, the weed beds have at times been so extensive that they have changed the flow of the river. Antidotal evidence indicates that the lack of flushing flows has contributed to the excess plant life. Until we are able to implement an aquatic plant study we will not be able to provide scientifically verifiable conclusions.
However, our macroinvertebrate studies have provided some good science in the bug world. Today there is a decrease in the insects that require clean gravel and those are the bugs that fly fishermen love best, mayflies and caddis flies. There is also an increase in the bugs who thrive in the silt and the weed beds such as worms, sow bugs and scuds. We believe that a return to springtime high water flushing would create a more natural state of the river and improve river health. This spring UMOWA has begun a conversation with the Bureau of Reclamation, Northwestern Energy and Mt Fish Wildlife and Parks about the possibility for providing a yearly large pulse flow to flush the Missouri River.
Stephanie Micek an engineer with the Bureau of Reclamation’s Montana Area Reservoir Operations says that the two primary missions of the Bureau are flood control and electrical generation. Of secondary importance in their plan are recreation and fisheries. The plan is available on their website.
The primary driving force for flows is water availability. The Bureau is bound to contracts with Northwestern Energy for power generation. The Bureau also controls Clark Canyon dam but they have no control over the other upstream impoundments on the Missouri Tributaries or main stem. Flood control which is a primary springtime concern is a week to week or even day to day plan depending on snowpack, precipitation, and weather predictions. A flushing flow has not been part of their plan.
Grant Grisick with MT Fish Wildlife and Parks has been studying the long-term inflows and outflows from Canyon Ferry and believes a minimum yearly peak of 14,000cfs for 5 to 7 days would be ideal. Unfortunately, the Missouri basin has been plagued with low snowpack and dry springs in recent years. Since year 2000 only 6 years have had flows that exceeded 10,000cfs and only 3 years have exceeded 13,000cfs. However, if the Bureau would agree to hold some water with the intent of providing a flush perhaps a more consistent flush could be accomplished.
Fortunately, this year that may not be a problem and it looks like we could get the minimum flushing flow we want. As I write this the Bureau is upping the flow to 10,600cfs below Canyon Ferry which meets the minimum we consider necessary for flushing. Since it is still snowing in the high country we may get the 15,000cfs.
But future years are still a major concern. Indications are that our concerns will be noted. Time will tell if we are successful at securing the necessary flows.
UMOWA hosted a get together for the guide and shop owners to show appreciation for their efforts on behalf of UMOWA. The Trout Shop provided the venue at their newly remodeled cafe and served the food. It was a great opportunity to get together and talk about the river. A good crowd of about 50 attended and shared their concerns and enthusiasm for the Missouri River.
In conjunction with the meeting UMOWA encouraged the guides to sign up for our Guide Ambassador program. As members of the program the guides serve as our eyes on the river to spot areas of concern that they feel UMOWA should address. They are also our first contact with their clients to inform them of the organization and our mission as well as encouraging them to join the cause. UMOWA would like to thank the following guide ambassadors for their support.
- Michael Kuhnert
- Brock Long
- Ben Hardy
- Mitch Kowalski
- Brent Lobbestael
- Casey Phelps
- Joe Moore
- Matt Mortensen
- Stephen Caldwell
- Andrew Christian
- Geoffrey Langell
- Taylor Todd
From the Chairman
We would like to thank all of the volunteers that have contributed to the success of UMOWA over the last year. Their help has been invaluable.
- Joe Kirkvliet – Bank projects
- Joel Wilson – Web Site
- Braden Lewis – Facebook and Science
- Cathy Fitzgerald – Data Base and Correspondence
- Marilyn Alkire – Fundraising
- Dave Dickman and Dwight Young – Missoula support
Thank you all,