Lolo Creek ditch screen saves thousands of fish | Local News

Lolo Creek ditch screen saves thousands of fish | Local News

In the no-news-is-very good-news section, far more than 10,000 trout did not die in Lolo Creek irrigation ditches this year.

For the earlier several falls, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists and volunteers have sloshed as a result of the stranded puddles of the Lolo Ditch after its headgate closed, scooping up stranded fish and hauling them by the bucketful back again to the creek. This calendar year, a innovative fish display screen at the headgate preempted all that inconvenience. 

Fish rodeo: Rescuing trout from draining ditches

In December, Clark Fork Coalition task supervisor Jed Whiteley described the monitor worked as supposed. After 15 yrs of preparing, fundraising and coalition building, Lolo Creek has been piscatorially reconnected to the Bitterroot River.

Lolo Creek drains about 245 square miles of forest amongst the city of Lolo and the Montana-Idaho border. It and its mountain tributaries present spawning grounds for native cutthroat, bull trout and mountain whitefish, along with introduced populations of rainbow and brown trout.

For just about 100 decades a one irrigation ditch on Lolo Creek in the Bitterroot Valley in western Montana led to the entrapment and loss of life of 10,000 to 20,000 fish per year – far more than any other ditch in western Montana. Fish biologists approximated that far more than 95{aa306df364483ed8c06b6842f2b7c3ab56b70d0f5156cbd2df60de6b4288a84f} of out-migrating salmonids have been trapped and killed in this one particular ditch on an annual basis.

In 2021 the Clark Fork Coalition done set up of an progressive, life-preserving fish screen on Lolo Ditch, straight away decreasing entrainment to zero. This is the story of that job and the individuals who designed it probable.

Rob Chaney

For the earlier century, a diversion ditch has shunted most — in some cases all — of Lolo Creek’s movement into a four-mile-prolonged canal serving many ranches and subdivisions in the Bitterroot Valley. A drinking water appropriate relationship back again to 1886 offers the customers precedence obtain to 3-quarters of Lolo’s drop water.

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And the ditch is so productive, it has usually stranded countless numbers of fish in the artificial streams. When the gate gets shut immediately after the crops are harvested, those fish can’t get again to the genuine creek.

Look at NOW: Lolo Creek ditch take care of sends 1000’s of fish back to Bitterroot River

A construction crew concluded do the job in November on a $280,000 customized fish display screen that appears to be like like a drinking water slide with a corrugated tin roof. The roof has holes like a colander, so the drinking water flows via but the fish slide off to a facet channel that returns them to Lolo Creek.

“Now with that screen in position, actually not one fish will experience that destiny,” Whiteley stated. “There will be zero mortalities.”

Maclay Ranch supervisor Nels Larson termed the addition of the screen a acquire-win for the two the ecosystem and the h2o people. At the very least 3 ranches and hundreds of homes rely on the canal water, though the Bitterroot River’s “blue ribbon” fishing standing depends on recruitment from Lolo Creek.

“This irrigation ditch is the lifeblood of these ranches,” Larson mentioned. “Without the water, the ranches won’t perform. Earning that h2o move is virtually make-or-split for these operations jogging livestock.”

FWP fisheries biologist Ladd Knotek explained the fish display screen design has probable to deal with equivalent fish diversion problems in the course of the Bitterroot River watershed. Just one of its ideal capabilities is it cleans alone, decreasing upkeep fees for h2o consumers.

Funding for the challenge came from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Clark Fork Coalition, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Provider, the Montana Watershed Coordination council and several chapters of Montana Trout Limitless.

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