Motorboat Restrictions Proposed for Flathead River

By Beacon Staff

In response to concerns over erosion and migrating waterfowl, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission is seeking public comment on proposed rule changes and draft environmental assessments that would alter recreational use on several bodies of water in Northwest Montana.

Among the affected waters are Church and Fennon sloughs, which are popular fishing and recreational destinations on the Flathead River south of Kalispell. Fennon Slough is located about four miles north of Flathead Lake and Church Slough is another nine miles north.

The commission is proposing to establish a seasonal boat closure from March 1 to April 10 and to restrict boating to no-wake speed limits the rest of the year on Church Slough. The proposal is in response to a petition submitted to FWP by Flathead Wildlife, Inc., and supported by the Flathead Audubon Society and Flathead County Weed/Parks/Recreation Board, with the intended goal of protecting migrating waterfowl.

The rule changes for Fennon Slough would establish a no-wake speed limit for boats, in response to a petition submitted to the FWP commission by landowners along the slough. The landowners are worried about bank erosion, which has been targeted as a concern along the stretch of river directly north of Flathead Lake.

The public comment period for both the Church and Fennon slough proposals and draft environmental assessments runs until 5 p.m. on March 4. Written comments can be mailed to Jessica Fitzpatrick at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620, or e-mailed to jfitzpatrick@mt.gov.

Also, the public can find out more information by attending a 6 p.m. meeting on Feb. 22 at FWP Region 1 headquarters, located at 490 N. Meridian Road.

Additionally, the commission would like feedback on proposals to restrict motorboat usage in Wild and Scenic portions of the North, Middle and South forks of the Flathead River, along with no-wake speed limits on Alvord Lake and Kilbrennan Lake in Lincoln County.

Wardens are currently unable to enforce motor restriction rules along the Flathead River’s forks, according to FWP. By adopting U.S. Forest Service regulations on motorboat usage, wardens would be able to enforce restrictions and better assist the public with complaints.

A Forest Service petition to establish a no-wake status for Alvord and Kilbrennan lakes has already been supported by Lincoln County commissioners. The petition states that a no-wake speed limit will assist in maintaining a quality fishing experience, protect breeding and nesting loons, and protect other wildlife that uses the lakes.

The petitioners also note that since Kilbrennan Lake was rehabilitated and restocked with Redband rainbow trout, boaters and fishermen have dramatically increased their usage.

The rule changes are available on the FWP website at www.fwp.mt.gov under “Public Notices.”

Public comment for the proposals on Alvord and Kilbrennan lakes, as well as the Flathead River fork changes, is accepted until 5 p.m. on March 4. Comments should be sent to Fitzpatrick by mail or e-mail.

For the Alvord and Kilbrennan proposals, the public is invited to attend a comment collection meeting at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 at the Forest Service office at 12858 U.S. Highway 2 in Troy.

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