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Lower Gallatin Focus Watershed

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on February 19, 2020 at 11:57:37 am

Main Page Table of Contents    


Project Location


The Lower Gallatin Focus Watershed Project Area is contained within Gallatin and Park Counties 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

(check back for more updates!)


Fund water quality restoration

In 2019 , the Clean Water Action Section 319 Grant Program is distributing nearly $300,000 to the Bitterroot Watershed. That's nearly 50% of the 319 funds distributed in the last 12 years! 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 Watershed Stories, with a set of stories focused on the Bitterroot Watershed 

News coverage of the Bitter Root Water Forum's restoration project on Miller Creek


Watershed Restoration Planning

     Coming soon: Updated 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. Next, 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.


Coming soon: Bitterroot Headwaters TIE

Past TIEs completed include Reimel Creek and Lolo Creek.


You can view the original TMDL Development Project Page.


Trend Monitoring

    More coming soon!


Meetings and Presentations


Meeting & Agenda  Presentations 

Lower Gallatin Focus Watershed - Stakeholder Kickoff Meeting

February 7, 2020

Gallatin Conservation District - Manhattan, MT


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





Project Contacts


Role  Name  Email  Phone 
Focus Watershed Project Coordinator  Eric Trum etrum@mt.gov  406-444-0531 
Monitoring Project Manager Katie Makarowski  kmkarowski@mt.gov 406-444-3507 


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: July 19, 2019