Lolo Creek Revegetation Project
The fire event of 2013, which burned over 10,000 acres along Highway 12 near Lolo left a portion of Lolo Creek without tree cover. The complex structure of the roots that once held the soil in the streambanks together is deteriorating. This is causing excess sedimentation to accumulate into Lolo creek. Apart from sedimentation there is no canopy cover which once shaded Lolo Creek, thus regulating its temperature. Sedimentation and temperature cause problems for trout habitat as well as increased stream migrating and widening, loss of land due to erosion, and an increased risk of the creek dewatering.
On April 30th, 2017, the Lolo Watershed Group teamed up with the Clark Fork Coalition to complete a revegetation project along this stretch of Lolo Creek. We planted ponderosas, dogwoods, and alders in three separate locations along Lolo Creek. The goal was to supplement riparian areas addressed in the 2016 planting event and bring more attention to watershed health and restoration. The planting event was made possible by a riparian planting mini-grand supported by the Missoula Conservation District.
In 2016, the Lolo Watershed Group was awarded a DNRC 319 grant designed to address issues of sedimentation and lack of shading due to the 2013 fire. We were able to plant over 1,100 trees which helped to improve 840 feet of stream bank. We are currently in the monitoring portion of this project and are in need of volunteers to help water and monitor these trees. If you or someone you know would like to join us in watering these plants this summer let us know!
In March, the Lolo Watershed Group and the Watershed Education Network teamed up to teach students about sedimentation in the Lolo Watershed. Students participated in two in-class lessons and one field outing to Travelers’ Rest State Park. Instructors lead stations which focused on the biological, chemical, and physical characteristics of Lolo Creek.
This event was made possible by a 2016 Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana (SWCDM) environmental education grant. The Lolo Watershed Group has been selected for an additional SWCDM grant, which will be used to organize a field trip in fall 2017.
Click on the images below to learn more SWCDM and the Watershed Education Network.
Lolo Watershed Study
The Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) and Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology (MBMG) have come together to create a statewide program to install realtime stream gages, create an online database, and conduct watershed studies. The Lolo Watershed Group was successful in nominating the lower reaches of Lolo Creek to be studied by MBMG Groundwater Investigation Program (GWIP). GWIP will be examining the hydrology and hydrogeology of Lower Lolo Creek to identify potential causes of dewatering. GWIP, along with the cooperative watershed study will share their resources and data to strengthen results.
The realtime data for Lolo Creek can be seen on our website.
The Montana-wide data set can be viewed here.
We have teamed up with the Watershed Education Network to create a sample analysis plan (SAP) in order to guide sediment trend monitoring for project effectiveness in the Lolo Creek watershed. They will establish photo monitoring points, as well as collect annual water quality data for the Lolo Creek watershed. This information will help evaluate the long-term effects of efforts to reduce sediment loading, while concurrently exposing middle-high school aged students to the concerns and relevant scientific evaluations of Lolo Creek’s health.
Riprap Planting Investigation
The close proximity of the creek to Highway 12 leaves it susceptible to receiving heavy loads of traction sand, particularly during winter months from plowing. Traction sand depositional loading can diminish water quality, as well as degrades fish habitat. Lolo Creek provides spawning habitat and is a corridor for threatened trout species. The effects on water quality from traction sand is a concern for both the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Montana Department of Transportation (MDT).
Tess Scanlon is a Masters student working on a project for the 319 DEQ grant given to Lolo Watershed Group to perform a feasibility study for a riparian planting along Lolo Creek. Tess is researching the feasibility of decreasing sediment loading into the creek by way of increasing the riparian habitat to create a buffer zone between the road and the creek.
Her focus for the planting project is portions of the creek that abut the highway. These stretches of creek have been previously lined by MDT with rock riprap. While the rock riprap functions to stabilize the streambanks, many of these riprap areas are not vegetated, leaving the interface between the creek and the road unprotected from traction sand deposits.
Tess is investigating the scope of work necessary to revegetate sections of riprap. Her research includes assessing various planting techniques that have been used at sites similar to Lolo Creek. She has been referencing past projects throughout western Montana to collect data on the methods used for plantings, survival of plantings, and the problems that arise during these projects. Native willows and cottonwoods will be the proposed species for the planting; they are the most commonly used shrubs in riparian restoration projects in the region, because they are both native and have the highest survival rates.
The final goal is to identify an appropriate method for planting along Lolo Creek, and also identify three sites along the creek at which this project could occur. Tess will provide DEQ with an estimation of the needs for as well as costs of the project.
Big Sky Watershed Corps
Lolo Watershed Group is in its third year of hiring a full time Big Sky Watershed Corp (BSWC) member. The BSWC member is responsible with planning and volunteer generation for our quarterly outreach events, creating quarterly newsletters, updating our social media, hosting education events, helping build our capacity through grant writing and volunteer generation, writing reports, among many other possibilities. Having a BSWC has been extremely beneficial in helping us to complete all of our desired tasks. In 2016, we had Joe Krenzelok as our BSWC. He helped us with grant funding, volunteer generation, project logistics and updated our website. In 2017, we had Kaeli Wells as our BSWC member. She planned the 6th grade field trip to Lolo Creek, updated our volunteer management system, and researched grants for the following year. Our 2018 member is Abby Cutting-Smith. She is already fully immersed in updating the website, helping to plan this year’s 6th grade field trip to Lolo Creek and exploring fundraising and restoration options. We are excited to see what projects we are able to accomplish this year having a BSWC and are exciting to continue having members in the future.
You can find out more information about BSWC by clicking on the image below.
Check back to see what we have planned for 2018!