Manmade Ponds Raising Eyebrows in the Yaak

By Beacon Staff

Every once in a while, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Mike Hensler will get a few calls – maybe five or six tops – about work projects along the rivers and waterways of Lincoln County. It’s the same with Lincoln County’s floodplain manager Lisa Oedewaldt.

But since someone started digging a manmade fishing pond along the Yaak River (near mile marker 23 of the Yaak River Road) this fall, the phone has been ringing off the hook.

“All the sudden, emails and phone calls started coming in about what I would describe as craters (along the river),” Oedewaldt said.

About a year ago Paul Bunn visited Oedewaldt about constructing a small, eight-foot by six-foot pond on his property along the Yaak River. Oedewaldt said the plans she saw indicated that it would not enter the floodplain along the river and thus he did not need a permit.

But this fall, when work actually began on the project, it turned out to be a lot more than a small manmade pond. Photos show the excavation of an area much larger than originally planned and it’s a lot closer to the river than anyone previously thought.

“It’s a basic violation of the floodplain regulations,” Oedewaldt said. “When you drive by it looks like a lot of excavation.”

The Beacon was unsuccessful in reaching Bunn last week.

Oedewaldt said the biggest issue is that work was done in the floodplain without a permit, which would have cost $100. Now, the owner will have to apply for an after-the-fact permit, which costs $500. Oedewaldt said she sent a letter to the landowner informing him of the violation and he has since responded, stating he is willing to work with the county. She said if the landowner cooperates, any additional fines for working on a floodplain without a permit could be dropped.

A complaint was also filed with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality about the risk the project poses to the river if there is any discharge from the construction site. But according to Oedewaldt, it hasn’t affected the river yet.

“He hasn’t touched the bank or the river channel,” she said. “He’s just digging holes into his property.”

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