The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission recently approved two Future Fisheries Improvement Program project proposals that will increase stream-flow and provide long-term benefits to two important fisheries.
“These projects will help restore water to the Jefferson and test our capability of preventing water loss to seepage on the Sun River,” said Glenn Phillips, FWP Fisheries Division habitat protection bureau chief. “Our goal is to complete improvements that make irrigation practices on these rivers more efficient, restoring flow to the rivers.”
In both projects, a sealant tested on an irrigation supply canal last year on the Jefferson, will be used to seal large irrigation canals.
On the Jefferson River, in Jefferson and Madison counties, chronic stream dewatering limits the rainbow and brown trout populations the river supports. In 2002, the Jefferson Canal, the largest irrigation supply canal on the river, was sealed with canal sealant saving 6 cfs of flow. This year the canal will be resealed and further work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service will be done to engineer changes in the canal that are expected to further reduce water loss.
On the Sun River in Teton County, a large irrigation system constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation diverts the majority of the Sun River’s base flow into two large ditches. Seepage and evaporation are estimated at 100 cfs on one canal and 300 cfs on the other. This project will treat a one-mile reach of one of the canals with canal seal to test its ability to conserve water in this system. The hope is that this project will lead to longer-term water conservation measures in the Sun River.