Working Together is Goal of Bitterroot Water Forum
The Bitterroot Water Forum has been helping improve the Bitterroot River, but also has been holding informational meetings and classes to highlight water uses and challenges in the valley. A perfect example of such a meeting was Wednesday evening at the Corvallis Grange Hall in Woodside. It brought brought together three informed speakers - Ed Snook, Charis Clancy and Dan Huls with reports of the past, present and probable future of the water resources in the Bitterroot Valley. All three urged continued work at bringing together all public viewpoints to work on water issues. Retired hydrologist Ed Snook had charts showing the changes in snowpack since 1950 in the valley, with general conclusions that there is less snowfall, but more rainfall on an annual basis. Combined with warmer temperatures in the Pacific Northwest, the annual stream flow has been lower and the dry years are getting drier.
Retired Fish Wildlife and Parks river specialist Chris Clancy brought figures from 1976 to now, showing air temperatures and water temperatures going up, which is moving some species of fish - such as bull trout - upstream, in search of colder water. Areas they once populated are showing an increased population of Brown trout. He also expects the mid-summer stream flows to be lower. Dan Huls of Huls Dairy provided a history of irrigation projects in the valley, including dams, showing that stored water has helped the river flows each year with both fish populations and irrigation uses. He said the irrigators and fishermen can work together on problems. As an example, the invasive species such as Zebra mussels quickly clog irrigation structures throughout the U.S., but the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks inspection sites of all boats are helping prevent those invasions in western Montana.