CLARK FORK RIVER WATERSHED PROGRAMS
VOLUNTARY NUTRIENT REDUCTION PROGRAM (VNRP)
The entire document for this program is listed on our Reports & Documents page along with the Three-Year reports completed to date. Click here to review the 1998 VNRP document (without appendices) or view either of the 3-year evaluation reports with the links below.
In August 1998, the Clark Fork River Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program (VNRP) was finalized and put into place as an agreement among major parties in the Montana portion of the watershed to significantly reduce nutrient pollution along a 200-mile stretch of the Clark Fork River. Work on the VNRP began four years earlier with the establishment of a Nutrient Target Committee by the Council, aimed at achieving consensus on in-stream nutrient targets for the Clark Fork River and to develop a basin-wide nutrient source reduction program to meet those targets. Committee members included the Cities of Butte, Deer Lodge and Missoula; Smurfit-Stone Container Corporation; the University of Montana; the Clark Fork Coalition; the Missoula City-County Health Department; and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. Region 8 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also contributed to the development of this agreement. Driven by requirements of the federal Clean Water Act and the immediate need to develop a specific plan of action for reducing nutrient loading, the committee members built a foundation for open dialogue and trust as they worked over four years to resolve complex issues and concerns.
Proposed actions in the plan and trends in river water quality will be evaluated every three years during implementation so that revisions can be made if needed. These progress reports also provide specific information on nutrient reduction activities and river quality changes during a specified timeframe, as well as provide a general explanation of nutrient and algae issues, local and state policy regarding nutrients/algae, and specific programs being implemented to resolve nutrient and nuisance algae problems in our surface waters. Both the 2002 and the 2005 progress reports are available at this time.
To be implemented over a 10-year period, the VNRP calls for site-specific measures to be taken by the four major point-source dischargers (Butte, Deer Lodge, and Missoula wastewater treatment facilities and Smufit-Stone Container) and for significant reductions by key non-point sources. In 2002, the State of Montana adopted the nutrient and algae targets of the VNRP as water quality standards for the Clark Fork River, making the VNRP targets applicable to all point sources. Some $62 million will be spent by the VNRP signatories to meet the agreement. Actions taken include:
- The City of Butte augmented flows with clean water from a nearby lake, and has applied its nutrient-rich wastewater onto a sod farm.
- The City of Deer Lodge removed its entire discharge from the river during critical summer months and has applied its wastewater onto hayfields at a nearby ranch.
- The City of Missoula installed a biological nutrient removal system at its wastewater treatment facility, which is meeting nutrient reduction targets.
- Smurfit-Stone Container has regulated its discharge to coincide with higher river flows and reduced seepage from its storage ponds near the river.
- Missoula County has taken the lead in an aggressive schedule to address non-point loading from septic systems in the Missoula valley.
A VNRP Coordinator helps increase participation in the VNRP among smaller dischargers and other communities, and to provide assistance for plan implementation. Contact: Will McDowell, VNRP Coordinator;(406) 327-8443; firstname.lastname@example.org
With the VNRP expired as of August 2008, the focus in western Montana will shift to non-point source pollution and septic education to protect municipal drinking water supplies. Check back for more updates on the progress of this work.
BITTERROOT RIVER, MONTANA
Draining 2,400 square miles in Ravalli County and supporting some of the fastest growing populations in Montana, the Bitterroot River is a key tributary to the Clark Fork River. The Council works with the Bitter Root Water Forum, Bitterroot Conservation District, Bitter Root RC&D, Bitterroot National Forest and other local organizations to conserve the watershed and manage nutrient loads entering the rivers.
Bitterroot River Modeling: This nutrient-loading mathematical model was completed and will be used by MDEQ to help develop upcoming TMDLs and to estimate the Bitterroot’s impact on Clark Fork River water quality.
Bitterroot Headwaters TMDL: The Bitterroot Headwaters TMDL Planning Area document was completed in 2005. This document is important because MDEQ believes it may set a number of precedents for non-point source TMDLs in western Montana.
Bitterroot Mainstem TMDL Planning: This project got underway in 2005 with a series of planning meetings with the MDEQ and our project partner, the Bitter Root Water Forum. A series of informal meetings about the mainstem TMDL were held with a host of stakeholders including the Ravalli County Commissioners, Planning Director, and Environmental Health Director; City of Hamilton Public Works Director; Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor and Hydrologist; Ravalli County Right to Farm & Ranch Board; Daly Ditches; Bitterroot Trout Unlimited; Montana Water Trust; Bitterroot Land Trust,; Bitterroot Board of Realtors; Ravalli County Fish & Wildlife Assoc.; Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, and the Mayor of Hamilton. A workshop for all of the point-source discharger municipalities was also held in November 2005. Based on feedback from these meetings, the Council and Bitter Root Water Forum completed a public participation plan that was submitted to MDEQ.
Water quality monitoring is an additional component of this TMDL planning effort. Monthly sampling was conducted at seven sites on the Bitterroot River mainstem throughout the year, and data was also collected in the Spring and Fall on eight tributaries.
Bitterroot River Tributary Activities
Ambrose-Threemile Watershed Project (Phases I & II): This watershed is the most significant tributary source of nutrients and sediment to the Bitterroot River. The Council’s VNRP Coordinator, consultants, the U.S. Forest Service, and MT DNRC worked with local citizens to complete a watershed assessment and report in January 2005. The assessment includes detailed information on nutrient and sediment sources, as well as complementary data on hydrologic alterations, riparian conditions, aquatic habitat, temperature, and stream morphology. Stream reaches, roads, and upland land units were prioritized for improvements based on these factors, and recommendations for approaches to projects, funding, and monitoring were developed in the report.
Wheelbarrow/Grayhorse Creek Project: A project in the Wheelbarrow/ Greyhorse section of the Threemile Creek watershed to reduce sediment & nutrients and improve fish & wildlife habitat, according to priorities set in the comprehensive 2005 watershed assessment. Funding is from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Future Fisheries Program, from the Five-Star Wetland Program of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and from the Bitterroot Conservation District, which sponsored a Local Empowerment Grant for this project.
This project includes stream restoration, riparian fencing, development of new water sources, and education work with the community and Lone Rock School. In November 2006, the first phase of stream restoration on Wheelbarrow Creek was carried out by the Council’s contractor, Geum Environmental, Inc. Streambank stabilization and stream channel realignment were completed at three priority sites on the creek.