Jim Creek to lose ‘impaired’ status

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Late autumn color highlights a view of Flathead National Forest along Highway 35 near Creston on Wednesday, Nov. 15.

Flathead National Forest’s Jim Creek is showing improved health.

The Swan River tributary southeast of Polson was listed as having “impaired” water quality in 1996 due to sediment and siltation. But on Wednesday, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced that it will lose that status next year.

“Jim Creek is an important spawning stream for bull trout” said Forest Supervisor Chip Weber. “I am proud of our work to improve and protect water quality in this beautiful stream”.

In 2013, Flathead identified Jim Creek as a priority watershed for restoration, and developed an action plan to improve its function. Elements of this plan were incorporated into the Cold Jim Resource Management Project and the Chilly James Access Management Project.

The latter project, funded by a Clean Water Act 319 grant and the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program improved roads and decommissioned some projects, with the goal of minimizing sediment from roads into Jim Creek and its tributaries.

The Forest Service has also implemented a variety of projects in the Jim Creek watershed, including road decommissioning, road storage, road surface erosion control, culvert upgrades and bridge work.

In a press release, Weber credited the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, Swan Valley Connections, the Montana Department of Natural Resources, Swan Lakers, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Montana Department of Transportation with achieving this goal.

“The de-listing of Jim Creek demonstrates the value of agencies and partners working together toward a common goal,” he said

State water quality specialist Robert Ray told the Daily Inter Lake that if the EPA concurs with Montana’s proposal, the creek’s non-impaired status will be included in Montana’s 2018 Integrated Water Quality Report.

Before submission, a draft of the report will be posted on the department’s website for public comment. Ray expects that to happen sometime in spring.

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

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