March 15, 2012
Sun River Watershed Progress!
Sam Wike
Last year the MRF donated $5000 to the Sun River Watershed.  Here is a report of their progress thus far. 

Sun River Watershed
2011 Happenings
The Sun River Watershed covers over 1.4 million acres in Cascade, Lewis & Clark and Teton Counties. From the east slopes of the Rocky Mountain Front to where the Sun River enters the Missouri River at Great Falls – people are working together to find solutions to difficult issues. The Sun River Watershed Group (SRWG) is a collaborative, locally directed group of interested individuals, organizations, and agencies dedicated to monitoring, improving and maintaining the quality of the natural resources within the Sun River Basin. To make sure the SRWG maintains a forward momentum an Executive Committeecontinues to provide leadership with the group's limited resources. 
The updates listed below are compilation of the hard work by many groups and individuals over the past year. This projects list is not intended to mean they were all accomplished by the SRWG but is just a means of tracking good projects that benefit the basin.
1.     The Rocky Mountain Front Weed Roundtable has been very busy supporting weed efforts along the Front. A detailed report of 2011 projects that includes the Sun Watershed is available upon request.
2.     Ford Creek spray day was held on June 16. Private landowners, USFS personnel, and others participated in the 7th annual Ford Creek spray day to help control noxious weeds in this drainage. 
3.     Sun Canyon spray day was held on June 24. This 3rd annual event sponsored by the Forest Service had hard working teams from the Forest Service, Teton County, Lewis & Clark County, The Nature Conservancy, Greenfields Irrigation District and Sun River Watershed Group spray noxious weeds along the beautiful Sun Canyon. 
4.     Sun River Weed Whacker Rodeo weed pull on the upper Sun River was accomplished on July 9. Forty volunteers and agency/organization representatives pulled 421 pounds of knapweed during this 14th annual event. 
5.     Upper Sun weed management area covers approximately 140,000 acres in upper Sun River watershed including Elk Creek drainage. Landowners in this area take advantage of a 50% cost-share program to control noxious weeds from the state Noxious Weed Trust Fund. 
Water Quality PROJECTS
1.     Teacher and students from Fairfield continued to monitor water quality at five sites on the Sun River. 
2.     Muddy Creek projects consisted of GID installing pipe, pumps and enlarging reregulating reservoir to reduce excess tailwater from entering Muddy Creek that increases erosion.
3.     Elk Creek had three diversion structures modified to enhance fish passage and control erosion. One major streambank project was accomplished but high water damaged the work.
Water Management PROJECTS
1.     A water management study initiated in 2008 continued in 2011 to compile water management alternatives from past studies and to identify new alternatives with the goal of turning the most promising ones into action plans for improving Sun River flows while maintaining agricultural production. Finding win-win solutions with a limited water supply is difficult but essential for the long-term benefit of everyone who uses water.
2.     Streamflow monitoring program continues with help from BoR, DNRC and USGS including:
a.     Three USGS stations at Muddy Creek at Vaughn, Sun River at Simms, Sun River near Vaughn
b.     Five DNRC gauge stations at upper Elk Creek, lower Big Coulee, upper Mill Coulee, and lower Mill Coulee
c.     Sun River at Highway 287 Bridge
3.     Fort Shaw Irrigation District continues to work on several water conservation projects with financial assistance from a DNRC grant. Projects this year included replacing open ditches with 1,000 feet of pipe. FSID was also awarded two grants to eliminate 7,000 feet of open ditch system with pipe.
4.     Greenfields Irrigation District continued work on several water conservation projects. In 2011 they installed a pipeline to reduce waste water into Muddy Creek. And a canal lining project has been funded and will be part of 2012 projects.  It is intended to reduce a major seep that puts lots of salts and sediment into Big Coulee.
1.     Education programs are also a major component of the Sun River Watershed effort.  Fairfield science teacher  Rai Hahn continues to work with youth on science projects that benefits the watershed and youth interested in natural resource issues. 
So with all this work going on where do you fit in? Your ideas and needs are important to the watershed effort if we are going to continue to effectively address water quality, water quantity and weed issues. Call Alan Rollo at 727-4437 or email at if you have anything you would like to discuss. Your hard work on these issues is appreciated and we look forward to working with you in the future. You, the people in the Sun River Watershed, are the key to a successful watershed group.

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