By Martin J. Kidston
The wild trout population in Beaver Creek is anything but thriving these days. If efforts to protect and improve trout habitat arent taken, a recent study reports, the creeks fish may never recover.
Working under a contract with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Joseph Urbani and Associates a Bozeman-based corporation specializing in fisheries conducted a study on a section of Beaver Creek and recommended solutions for improving the ailing trout population.
The study identified several problems within the waterway that continue to have a negative impact on the streams trout. Most are lingering effects created when Highway 234 was constructed when workers impaired the streams water by rerouting Beaver Creek for the convenience of the road.
According to FWPs Biologist Kent Gilge, the DOT will be required to correct those problems and take the reports further recommendations to heart when it begins the Highway 234 project in the upcoming years. Gilge said that 20 percent of the projects costs can be used to repair past stream damages and his department will be there to ensure the work is done right.
They have to take this study into consideration, Gilge said, responding to remarks made by a DOT official and member of the Beaver Creek Advisory Council. Were here to make sure they dont degrade the creek.
Creek degradation is what prompted the study conducted by Joseph Urbani and Associates to begin with. The study focused on a six-mile stretch of Beaver Creek between Upper and Lower Bear Paw Lakes. In this stretch of water problems with sedimentation, high water temperature, low flow and a lack of cover were identified as providing a less than optimal habitat for wild fish.
The report cited streamflow as the single most prevalent factor limiting wild trout numbers in Beaver Creek. Because of low stream flow, high water temperatures in late summer result. When these factors are coupled with the disappearance of deep spawning pools and streamside vegetation, the results prevent trout from reaching maturity, inducing high rates of mortality, the study reports.
Cattle were also attributed to having a high impact on several stretches of streambank, reducing cover and increasing sedimentation. However, the study reports cattle impact is restricted to accessible areas only and can be countered with new vegetation and off-site watering locations.
DOT design supervisor for the Beaver Creek Road Project Ross Gammon, who is also a member of the Beaver Creek Advisory Council, said he thinks the Urbani report is an effort by FWP to keep cattle from making it to the creek.
Were ignoring that, Gammon said of the report at the last advisory meeting. We dont even want to deal with that report.
Theres no mention of running the cows out of the park, Gilge said, responding to Gammons comments in a phone interview. Our job is simply to protect the stream. They (DOT) are trying to get people ired by misquoting us.
The factors impairing the trout population in Beaver Creek dont come without recommendations for improvements. The report offers several cost effective treatments that can be used along the creek to alleviate stresses on wild fish, and allow them to propagate and survive to adulthood.
Its our job to make sure they get done, Gilge said of the DOT.
The next meeting of the Beaver Creek Advisory Council will be held on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. in the countys annex building. The report by Joseph Urbani and Associates is available at the FWPs office in Havre.