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Musselshell Watershed Water Quality Planning Project

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Main Page          Monitoring and Assessment          TMDL Development          Restoration and Protection


           Wetlands          Outreach          Contact Information



Project Overview

The Water Quality Planning Bureau at Montana DEQ is conducting a watershed wide assessment for streams in the Musselshell River watershed (Figure 1). This process started in the summer of 2014, and will continue for several more years. The purpose of this assessment is to determine the overall health of the streams in the Musselshell watershed, and determine if any water quality issues exist on those streams.


 Figure 1. Map of the Musselshell Watershed


Why is DEQ Interested in the Musselshell?

As the water quality planning work in western Montana nears completion, we are focusing our future efforts to central and eastern Montana. The Musselshell watershed is a diverse watershed ranging from mountain streams in the upper parts of the watershed, to prairie and river-breaks type streams lower in the watershed.


Most folks in the watershed rely on clean water for drinking, irrigation, stock water, recreation, and many more uses. There are engaged groups of stakeholders in the watershed that are interested in the issues surrounding the Musselshell River and its tributaries.


Watershed Risk Assessment

Since we do not have the resources to look at every stream in the watershed, a new risk-based approach is being used to prioritize which streams will be evaluated. The Musselshell River and most of its major tributaries were looked at in 2014 to determine potential monitoring sites. 44 sites, out of a total of 55 potential sites were looked at in 2014. Weather and late summer flooding prevented us from visiting all of the sites we wanted to look at. Water sources, ecosystem types, riparian vegetation type and condition, upland vegetation type and condition, surrounding land uses, erosion and channel stability, and visual indicators of water quality were all considered at each site. This project also includes streams that have been previously identified as impaired by a pollutant from past evaluations.


Streams that have the potential to be impaired by either a pollutant (sediment, nutrients, salinity, etc.), or non-pollutant (flow alteration, habitat alteration, etc.) will be prioritized based on risk (need of restoration) and resource value. A sampling and analysis plan will be developed this winter to outline the streams that will be evaluated in the upcoming years.



Opportunities for Local Stakeholder Collaboration

DEQ relies on input from people who live and work in these watersheds to inform the scope of our work throughout this planning process. Opportunities for partnerships between DEQ and stakeholders may include:

  • Input on sampling design – which waters to monitor and where?
  • Input on water quality issues of interest or concern
  • Volunteer monitoring program development/capacity-building
  • Landowner outreach to help facilitate monitoring on private lands
  • Support for local watershed restoration planning efforts


Project Contacts





TMDL Project Manager

Lou Volpe


(406) 444-6742

Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Lead

Katie Makarowski


(406) 444-3507

Nonpoint Source Program Contact

Mark Ockey


(406) 444-5351

Wetlands Monitoring Contact Steve Carpenedo scarpenedo2@mt.gov (406) 444-3527