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Bitterroot Focus Watershed

Page history last edited by hannah.riedl@... 1 year, 3 months ago

Main Page Table of Contents    


Project Location

(Click on the map to enlarge)


The Bitterroot Focus Watershed Project Area is contained within Ravalli and Missoula County and encompasses the area shown in the map above. The project area encompasses the fourth-code hydrologic unit code (HUC) 17010205 and is bound by the Bitterroot and Sapphire Mountains. The total extent of the watershed is approximately 2,855 square miles.



Project Overview


Nonpoint source pollution is Montana's largest source of water quality impairment. Nonpoint source pollution can impact water quality, wildlife, land management, and social factors such as economics and aesthetic resources. Unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment plants (point sources), nonpoint sources of pollution are widespread and can be generated by most land-use activities.  This type of pollution occurs when rainfall or snowmelt creates run off that carries dirt, oil, fertilizers, and other chemicals into streams, rivers, lakes, and groundwater. Often, simple best management practices, such as establishing and maintaining riparian vegetation, can buffer waterways from nonpoint source pollution. 


Given the widespread nature and collective impacts of nonpoint source pollution, generating momentum in water quality improvement is an essential component to documenting reduced nonpoint source pollution impacts. DEQ's Nonpoint Source Program's strategic plan is to focus a majority of its resources into select watersheds for up to 3 years. The first watershed selected, beginning in 2019, was the Bitterroot.   


Bitterroot River photo

Bitterroot River


Taking this approach, the goals are to:

1)     Support increased water quality improvement activities by generating water quality interest in the watershed’s citizens and building stakeholder capacity.

2)     Evaluate trends in nutrient concentrations in the mainstem Bitterroot River.

3)     Track water quality indicators that could suggest restoration activities or changes in management have improved conditions.

4)     Document water quality and landowner successes.



Why DEQ is Interested in the Bitterroot Watershed


A major reason the Bitterroot was selected as the first focus watershed is because of the multiple stakeholder groups working to improve water quality. This includes but is not limited to:


Other criteria considered in selecting the Bitterroot as the focus watershed include: 

  • The extent that DEQ supplied resources can provide increased momentum for water quality improvement actions on the ground.
  • Local citizens, stakeholders, and visitors are interested in, support, and value natural resources provided by water quality. 
  • The ability to track changes in water quality and/or key water quality indicators through time. 
  • There is a significant extent of nonpoint source pollution issues and related impairment conditions that can be addressed via traditional BMPs.
  • Potential to reduce a community’s point source treatment costs by reducing upstream nonpoint sources of pollution.
  • Coincides with other agency or other internal DEQ program priorities.



Project Objectives


Fund water quality restoration

In 2019 -2021 , the Clean Water Action Section 319 Grant Program distributed over $1.5 million to the Bitterroot Watershed. The previous three years, only half that was distributed! Please visit our 319 Restoration Projects map for more information about restoration projects in the Bitterroot and around the state.


Document success stories and achievements

  • Check out the Montana Watershed Coordination Council's audio and printed Watershed Stories, with a set of stories focused on the Bitterroot Watershed 
  • 2018 news coverage of the Bitter Root Water Forum's restoration project on Miller Creek
  • 2020 news coverage of the Clark Fork Coalition's restoration project on Miller Creek 
  • 2020 news coverage of the Bitter Root Water Forum's restoration project on the Bitterroot River 
  • 2020 news coverage of the Bitter Root Water Forum's restoration project on North Burnt Fork Creek 
  • 2021 news coverage of the Bitter Root Water Forum's restoration project on the Bitterroot River 
  • New! Impairment delistings anticipated in the 2024 Integrated Report: 
    • East Fork Lolo Creek: Fish passage and alteration in streamside vegetation
    • Granite Creek: Fish passage 
    • Lost Park Creek: Fish passage 
    • Reimel Creek: Alteration in streamside vegetation 


Watershed Restoration Planning

Updated 2020 Bitterroot Watershed Restoration Plan

Past WRPs completed also include: Miller Creek and Lolo Creek.


Complete TMDL Implementation Evaluations

Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) are a plan to reduce pollution from different sources in order to achieve water quality standards. After TMDLs have been implemented, TMDL Implementation Evaluations (TIEs) compile the planning, restoration, and monitoring that occurred since the publication of the original TMDL document. TIEs summarize findings of the original TMDL Document and provide recommendations for improving water quality further, or make monitoring recommendations to reassess streams to see if they've achieved water quality standards.


New! Bitterroot Headwaters TIE

Past TIEs completed include Reimel Creek and Lolo Creek.


You can view the original Bitterroot TMDL Development Project Page.


Trend Monitoring

2019 Bitterroot Nutrient Monitoring Report

2020 Bitterroot Nutrient Monitoring Report

New!  2021 Bitterroot Nutrient Monitoring Report & Clark Fork Basin Monitoring Storymap


Meetings and Presentations


Meeting & Agenda  Presentations 

Bitterroot Stakeholder Meeting

March 23, 2021 2 pm

The goal of this meeting is to share results from the Bitterroot community readiness assessment and discuss outreach strategies with local organizations.


View the presentation (2.1 MB)


Watch the recording.


Recommended outreach actions associated with each phase of community readiness

Bitterroot Stakeholder Symposium

May 6, 2020

Virtual Zoom meeting


Meeting Agenda

Watch the full recording here!: https://youtu.be/pbLmY4WV4q8

To help you navigate to topics of interest, timestamps are below and contained within these meeting notes (0.2 MB).


Welcome & overview (2.5 MB) - Hannah Riedl, DEQ


New ideas from the Bitterroot Watershed Restoration Plan (0.5 MB) - Andrea Price, Bitter Root Water Forum


Lessons learned from North Burnt Fork Creek project development Presentation (4.2 MB) and final report (1.3 MB) - Christine Brissette, Trout Unlimited


Mainstem monitoring results (1 MB) - John DeArment, Clark Fork Coalition


Community readiness assessments (0.4 MB) - Eric Trum, DEQ


Bitterroot River Protection Plan (5.3 MB) - Hannah Riedl, DEQ


Bitterroot Stakeholder Symposium

July 9, 2019

Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge


Meeting Agenda 

Welcome, Introductions and Overview (1.26 MB) --Hannah Riedl, DEQ 


Project updates (9.81 MB)--Jed Whiteley, Clark Fork Coalition 


TMDL Implementation Evaluations overview (3.6 MB)--Robert Ray, DEQ


USFS TMDL-Focused achievements and program direction (25.15 MB) --Marilyn Wildey, Bitterroot National Forest


Bitterroot Watershed Restoration Plan update (799 KB)--Heather Barber, Bitter Root Water Forum


State LiDAR Plan (3.59 MB)--Troy Blandford, Montana State Library


Bitterroot Stakeholder Meeting

February 28, 2022

City of Hamilton Community Room


Meeting Agenda 

Watch the full recording (or refer to the timestamps below to watch specific presentations) here: https://youtu.be/ZFg3ET06NHw?t=338


(5:38) Welcome and Focus Watershed Background (2.63 MB)-- Hannah Riedl, DEQ


(39:50) Miller, O'Brien and Upper Lolo Projects (4.23 MB)-- Jed Whiteley, Adam Switalski, and Katie Racette, Clark Fork Coalition


(59:30) Stevensville and Hamilton groundwater studies (2.29 MB) -- Todd Myse, MT Bureau of Mines & Geology


(1:17:30) ARPA Recipients panel -- Cities of Hamilton and Missoula and Missoula and Ravalli Counties


(1:47:55) USFS infrastructure funding -- Andy Efta, US Forest Service


(2:09:00) Targeted Implementation Planning -- Stacey Welling, Natural Resources and Conservation Service


(2:18:00) Improving irrigation on the Bitterroot mainstem and cost share projects (952 KB) -- Kent Myers


(2:33:00) Bitter Root Water Forum Projects (2.33 MB) -- Andrea Price, Bitter Root Water Forum, and Matt Heller, US Fish and Wildlife Service

    Water quality projects

    Water conservation projects 

    River Conditions Tool (1.16 MB)


(3:21:50) Trout Unlimited Projects (1.77 MB)-- Christine Brissette, Trout Unlimited


(3:39:00) Lower Bitterroot lead monitoring results from 2021 (1.97 MB) -- Hannah Riedl, DEQ





Project Contacts


Role  Name  Email  Phone 
Focus Watershed and Monitoring Projects Coordinator  Hannah Riedl  Hannah.Riedl@mt.gov  406-444-0549 


Click on the Adobe Reader icon if you need to download the free Adobe Acrobat software in order to view the PDF documents on this page. 

Page Released: July 19, 2019

Page Last Updated: February 13, 2023