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FWP proposal aims to reconnect Hardy Creek with the Missouri River near Cascade

Comments will be accepted through 5 p.m., October 14, 2019
Posted: 9:07 AM, Sep 14, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-15 13:44:48-04

GREAT FALLS — Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is soliciting public comment on a proposal to reconnect Hardy Creek with the Missouri River near the town of Cascade.

A press release from FWP says that the proposal calls for reconstructing a stream channel through a gravel pit, redefining the channel downstream of the gravel pit, and removing or modifying several culverts in lower Hardy Creek.

Restoration of the channel will allow Hardy Creek to function as a spawning and rearing tributary for trout in the Missouri River.

The proposal is detailed in an EA available on the FWP website at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices or at the FWP Region 4 office, 4600 Giant Springs Road, in Great Falls.

Comments will be accepted through 5 p.m., October 14, 2019.

For more information contact Jason Mullen, FWP fisheries biologist, at (406) 454-5855, or jmullen@mt.gov

From the FWP website:

Purpose of the project: Reconnect Hardy Creek with the Missouri River by reconstructing a stream channel through a gravel pit, redefining the channel downstream of the gravel pit, and removing or modifying several culverts in lower Hardy Creek. Restoration of the channel will allow Hardy Creek to function as a spawning and rearing tributary for trout in the Missouri River.

Description of the project: Hardy Creek is a small tributary (approximately 10.2 sq mi drainage area) to the Missouri River, south of Cascade, MT. Hardy Creek is designated as perennial on the 1961 USGS quad topo map approximately 0.6 miles upstream of the current Old Highway 91. From this point downstream, Hardy Creek is designated as intermittent; however, Hardy Creek flowed year-round underneath the current I-15 during 2017, which was a dry year, and typically flows year-round downstream to the gravel pit.

Hardy Creek has been impacted significantly by construction of a gravel pit on the channel by the early 1960s and the development of numerous road crossings, including in the Pistoria Tracts sub-division, the interstate on and off ramps, and Old Highway 91, all of which are within 0.5 miles from the confluence with the Missouri River.

Currently, Hardy Creek flows into a 4.5-acre gravel pit, approximately 0.2 miles upstream from Missouri River (Figure CH-l). The gravel pit outlet elevation is greater than the inlet, thus the gravel pit must fill before it flows out to the Missouri River. Occasionally (when flow and rainbow trout spawning coincide) rainbows will swim up the channel to spawn and then as the water recedes adults and juveniles get trapped in the pond. Typically, the gravel pit and the channel downstream is completely dry by summer, despite perennial flow under the interstate and to the gravel pit. Downstream of the gravel pit, the Hardy Creek channel goes under a railroad bridge and through a culvert (Figure CH-1), before making its way to the Missouri River.

The channel downstream of the gravel pit is poorly defined, due to the encroachment of vegetation into the channel from the dampening of flows from the gravel pit. Upstream of the gravel pit, the culvert at the Old Highway 91 is perched and prevents passage of fish into upper Hardy Creek.

The project aims to reconnect Hardy Creek with the Missouri River by reconstructing the stream channel through the gravel pit, redefining the channel downstream of the gravel pit, and removing or modifying several culverts in lower Hardy Creek. Restoration of the channel will allow Hardy Creek to function as a spawning and rearing tributary for trout in the Missouri River, which would provide a significant benefit to the Missouri River fishery.

The Missouri River below Holter Dam is consistently one of the most popular fisheries in the state, ranking first in angler use in 2015 with 183,479 angler days.