Fishing pond to reach River’s Edge Park – eventually

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Local anglers will eventually be able to cast their lines in Columbia Falls’ River’s Edge Park.

Last Thursday, the City of Columbia Falls announced that it was considering granting a floodplain development permit for a new fishing pond, which is being jointly developed by the city, the Flathead Land Trust and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.

“It makes a perfect environment for a fishing pond,” said city contract manager Eric Mulcahy. “Once you dig into this area and you dig down and you hit the groundwater, you’re essentially hitting water that’s at the level of the river and moving at a substantial pace.”

That groundwater, he said, will flush the pond out and bring nutrients in. But it will also complicate digging the 1.5-acre lake.

“Once we go down five feet, we’re gonna hit water,” he predicted, saying that the city aims to have it completed by spring, when the groundwater level typically rises. “It’s going to be very close on whether we can all come together” before then, he said.

Paul Travis, executive director of the Flathead Land Trust, said that this winter’s warmer-than-usual temperatures have left the ground soft and could make it difficult to maneuver heavy machinery. While he said that the project would be completed, a delay until the fall is possible.

He said that the project had secured $150,000 in grant funding from Fish, Wildlife and Parks’s Bill Camp Fund and the Bozeman-based LOR Foundation. One unnamed contractor has agreed to help with the project, and Travis said he was in talks with several others.

While Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks projects a depth of 25 feet, it may prove infeasible to dig that deep, Mulcahy said.

Kenny Breidinger, Flathead Fisheries Management Biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told the Daily Inter Lake that the pond would be stocked with West Slope Cutthroat Trout from the state’s Washoe Park Trout Hatchery in Anaconda. “It’s a native species and we don’t want non-native [fish] finding their way into the river,” he said.

Comments on the Floodplain Development Permit must be received on or before Feb. 15. They may be sent to Columbia Falls City Hall, Attention: Susan Nicosia, City Manager, 130 6th Street West, Room A, Columbia Falls, MT 59912. For more information call Eric Mulcahy at 755-6481.

Reporter Patrick Reilly can be reached at preilly@dailyinterlake.com, or at 758-4407.

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