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Tongue River Watershed Water Quality Planning Project

Page history last edited by Christina Staten 8 months, 1 week ago Saved with comment

Tongue River Home Page          Salinity Model          TMDL Development

 

Water Quality Data and Assessment          Restoration and Protection

 

         Outreach          Contacts


 

 

Project Overview

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is conducting water quality studies in the Tongue River watershed, within the portion of the watershed located in the state of Montana (Map 1). This page contains information on a salinity project on the Tongue River itself. Additionally, two projects are taking place within the Otter Creek drainage (an iron TMDL and also development of site-specific salinity standards), and related information can be found on the Otter Creek pages. 

 


 Map 1: Location of the Tongue River Watershed

(Click on map to enlarge)

 

Tongue River 

 Photo credit: U.S. EPA, Montana Operations Office

(Click on picture to enlarge)

 

Why is DEQ Interested in the Tongue River Watershed?

Montana DEQ, in consultation with Montana's Statewide Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Advisory Group, has determined that salinity total maximum daily load development for the Tongue River is a high priority due to the importance of the Tongue River as an irrigation resource, along with a high level of stakeholder interest and concerns regarding ongoing and planned energy development projects. Significant work occurred on this project in the early 2000s, led by the Montana Operations Office of the U.S. EPA, and DEQ is building upon that work. Future water quality projects will also occur to address other identified pollution problems for the Tongue River, Tongue River Reservoir, and tributaries to the Tongue River (Table 1 below); however, these projects have not been scheduled.

 

 

What is DEQ’s Water Quality Planning Process?

The state of Montana has established water quality standards for pollutants that may enter and harm our streams, rivers, and lakes. The standards are set to protect beneficial uses that the state has designated for each waterbody; these may include drinking water, recreational uses, agricultural uses, industrial uses, and support of aquatic life. DEQ collects water quality data and compares that data to the water quality standards. Waterbodies that do not meet the standards are determined to be impaired. DEQ then develops solutions for restoring full support of the waterbody’s designated uses. Salinity impairment in the Tongue River is the focus of the project discussed on this page.

 

 

Tongue River Project Boundaries and Project Focus

The Tongue River forms in the Big Horn Mountains, west of Sheridan, Wyoming, flows across the Wyoming-Montana state border near Decker, and ends at its confluence with the Yellowstone River in Miles City, Montana (Map 1 above).

 

The portion of the Tongue River within the state of Montana is divided into seven segments, which are referred to as water quality assessment units (Map 2, Table 1 below). The lowest segment, Twelve Mile Dam to the mouth (assessment unit MT42C001_011) is listed as impaired for salinity in Montana's 2018 Water Quality Integrated Report. The segment above this, Beaver Creek to Twelve Mile Dam (assessment unit MT42C001_014) is currently undergoing a water quality assessment and is expected to be found impaired for salinity and added to the 2020 list of impaired waters. A salinity TMDL is under development for the Beaver Creek to Twelve Mile Dam segment of the river. A draft TMDL document is expected to be available for public comment in 2020. Additional information on the TMDL document can be found on the Tongue River Watershed TMDL Development page.

 

Map 2: Segments of the Tongue River (Water Quality Assessment Units)*

(Click on map to enlarge)

 

*Assessment units (locations of segment breaks) are determined by Montana DEQ

 

Even though a TMDL is only being developed for a lower segment of the river, this project takes the entire area of the watershed into account for determining the sources of salt to the river. DEQ has developed a water quality model for the Tongue River that is being used for source assessments. The Tongue River Salinity Model page provides detailed information on salinity and information specific to how the model is being used. Information on Montana’s salinity water quality standards is contained on the Tongue River Watershed Monitoring and Assessment page.  

 

 

Table 1: Water Quality Impairments for the Tongue River, Tongue River Reservoir, and Tributaries

 

Waterbody Segment (Assessment Unit)

(Click Name to View Assessment Record)

Assessment Unit ID

County

Probable Impairment Causes (2018)1

Tongue River (Click here for an interactive map of all segments)

Tongue River

Wyoming border to Wyoming border

MT42B001_011

Big Horn

None identified

Tongue River

Wyoming border to Tongue River Reservoir

MT42B001_010

Big Horn

Iron

Flow regime modification

Tongue River

Tongue River Dam to Prairie Dog Creek

MT42B001_020

Big Horn,

Rosebud

Flow regime modification

Tongue River

Prairie Dog Creek to Hanging Woman Creek

MT42B001_021

Rosebud

Flow regime modification

Tongue River

Hanging Woman Creek to Beaver Creek

MT42C001_013

Rosebud

Iron

Flow regime modifications

Sediment

Tongue River

Beaver Creek to Twelve Mile Dam, T6N, R48E, S29

MT42C001_014

Rosebud,

Custer

Iron

Flow regime modifications

Sediment

Tongue River

Twelve Mile Dam to mouth (Yellowstone River)

MT42C001_011

Custer

Cadmium

Copper

Iron

Lead

Flow regime modification

Nickel

Salinity

Sediment

Zinc

Tongue River Reservoir

Tongue River Reservoir

MT42B003_010

Big Horn

Chlorophyll-a

Dissolved oxygen

Sediment

Tongue River Tributaries (Click here for an interactive map of all segments)

Hanging Woman Creek

Wyoming border to Stroud Creek

MT42B002_032

Big Horn,

Rosebud

Salinity

Flow regime modification

Hanging Woman Creek

Stroud Creek to mouth (Tongue River)

MT42B002_031

Rosebud

Iron

Salinity

Sedimentation-Siltation

Flow regime modification

Otter Creek 2

Headwaters to mouth (Tongue River)

MT42C002_020

Powder River,

Rosebud

Iron

Salinity

Alteration in streamside or littoral vegetative covers

Pumpkin Creek

Headwaters to Little Pumpkin Creek

MT42C002_061

Powder River

Salinity

Temperature

Flow regime modification

Pumpkin Creek

Little Pumpkin Creek to the mouth (Tongue River)

MT42C002_062

Powder River,

Custer

Salinity

Temperature

Flow regime modification

1 Impairment causes identified in Montana’s 2018 Water Quality Integrated Report

2 A draft iron TMDL document has been completed; site-specific salinity standards for Otter Creek are under development. See the Otter Creek pages for additional information.

 

 

 

Tongue River Project Contacts

Role

DEQ Contact

Email

Phone

Project Coordinator

Christina Staten

CStaten@mt.gov

(406) 444-2836

Project Modeler

Eric Regensburger

ERegensburger@mt.gov

(406) 444-6714

Salinity TMDL Project Manager

Kristy Fortman

Kristy.Fortman@mt.gov

(406) 444-7425

 

See the Tongue River Watershed Project Contacts page for a full description of each project team member's role and for a list of additional contacts. 

 


 

Page Released: July 6, 2016

Last Updated: July 23, 2019