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Sheep Creek Watershed Water Quality Planning Project

Page history last edited by Christina Staten 2 years ago Saved with comment

Main Page          Monitoring and Assessment          TMDL Development          Restoration and Protection          


Outreach          Contact Information



Project Overview

The Sheep Creek watershed is located in Meagher County, Montana (Figure 1), near White Sulphur Springs, and is approximately 195 square miles in area (124,500 acres). Sheep Creek (see photo below) is a tributary to the Smith River within the Upper Missouri River basin (hydrologic unit code 10030103). From the Fall of 2014 through 2016, the Water Quality Planning Bureau at Montana DEQ conducted a watershed-wide assessment of streams in the Sheep Creek watershed. The purpose of the assessment was to determine the overall health of the streams in the Sheep Creek watershed, and determine if any water quality issues existed in those streams. As a result, two total maximum daily loads have been written for Sheep Creek, one for aluminum and one for E.coli. See the Sheep Creek TMDL Development page for more information. 



 Figure 1. Map of the Sheep Creek Watershed



Sheep Creek

(Click on image to enlarge)

Photo by Montana DEQ



Why Has DEQ Been Interested in Sheep Creek?

Sheep Creek was prioritized for water quality assessment and TMDL development due to existing impairment listings and a new proposed copper mine in the watershed. There are also engaged groups of stakeholders in the watershed that are interested in the issues surrounding Sheep Creek and its tributaries.



Watershed Risk Assessment Process

Since DEQ does not have the resources to look at every stream in the watershed, a risk-based approach was used to prioritize which streams were assessed. Streams that have the potential to be impaired by either a pollutant (e.g., sediment, nutrients, metals, etc.), or non-pollutant (e.g., flow alteration, habitat alteration, etc.) were prioritized based on risk (need of restoration) and resource value. This project also included streams that were previously identified as impaired by a pollutant from past assessments. The below diagram outlines the water quality assessment and planning process used by DEQ.  




Sheep Creek Watershed Monitoring & TMDL Development

In 2015, DEQ monitored the below list of streams for metals, nutrients, and temperature, and Sheep Creek itself was monitored for E. coli and sediment. The 2015 sampling and analysis plans and a map of the monitoring locations can be found on the Monitoring and Assessment page.  

  • Sheep Creek 
  • Big Butte Creek
  • Moose Creek 
  • Calf Creek 
  • Little Sheep Creek
  • Nugget Creek 


As a result of the 2015 monitoring and water quality assessments, Sheep Creek was found to be impaired (not meeting its water quality standards) for aluminum and Escherichia coli (E. coli). Two total maximum daily loads (TMDL) were then written for Sheep Creek. Additional TMDL information can be found on the Sheep Creek Watershed TMDL Development page. 


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 the planning process. Opportunities for partnerships between DEQ and stakeholders may include:

  • 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


If you are interested in improving water quality in your area, please contact Robert Ray for additional information (406-444-5319). 


Project Contacts





TMDL Project Manager - Aluminum and E. coli

Lou Volpe


(406) 444-6742

Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Contact

Darrin Kron


(406) 444-4765

TMDL Implementation / Nonpoint Source Pollution Program Contact

Robert Ray


(406) 444-5319


Page Last Updated: January 11, 2021