BUTTE - Summit Valley residents may soon see a resurgence in the native cutthroat trout population as the fish make their way up the Columbia River basin watershed, which includes Silver Bow Creek, Browns Gulch, German Gulch and Blacktail Creek.
The streams took years of abuse from mine waste, but Montana Tech’s Environmental Engineering Department is playing a key role in a major research project aimed at improving the watershed, thanks to a nearly $1 million grant. The total funding for creek restoration in the Upper Clark Fork watershed now tops $15 million.
Ultimately, the researchers hope to recruit native cutthroat trout to repopulate the tributaries.
Leading the research on Blacktail Creek is Tech graduate student Capri Gillam, who is studying the nine-mile area to Montana Street in Butte. It’s been a major undertaking: More than 100 homeowners had to give their consent for Gillam and instructors to pass through private land.
The field work that started in August is complete, and Gillam is preparing a report that will recommend what measures can be taken to restore problem areas along the stretch.
“We’re looking at erosion types, vegetation types, different land uses, and aquatic fish habitats and rating them on a scale,” Gillam said. “We want to know which areas are more problematic than others.”