Fish Barrier in Silver Bow Creek Intended to Protect Cutthroat Trout

By Beacon Staff

BUTTE — A planned $500,000 fish barrier will aim to protect westslope cutthroat trout from non-native species in Silver Bow Creek in western Montana.

The Montana Standard reported that the barrier is expected to be finished in late 2014.

Money for the project comes from an $86 million settlement in 1998 between Montana and Atlantic Richfield Co., stemming from mine-waste damage to the Upper Clark Fork River Basin.

Restoration efforts started in 2002 when Silver Bow Creek didn’t support any fish.

“This was a completely dead system,” said Gregory Mullen, an environmental specialist with the Natural Resource Damage Program. “It was dead to fish and insects. But the wildlife is coming back. It’s really quite amazing.”

As part of the remediation efforts, more than 500 cubic yards of mine waste have been removed from the stream since the late 1990s. Stream restoration is also planned on Silver Bow Creek, Brown’s Gulch, German Gulch and Blacktail Creek.

The restoration includes stabilizing stream banks and planting trees to provide shade on the water and stability to the banks.

The fish barrier intends to prevent brown trout and brook trout from competing with cutthroats. It will also help prevent hybridization between cutthroats and rainbow trout.

It allows fish to go downstream but not return.

“The barrier fixes the main problem of invasion by non-native species,” fishery biologist Jason Lindstrom said.

Some cutthroats will likely go over the fish barrier. But Lindstrom said the loss of those fish is a risk worth taking to make sure the overall population survives.

The barrier is being placed below German Gulch in Durant Canyon above Fairmont Road.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.