Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking for public comment on a proposal to reconnect a channel of the Musselshell River southwest of Melstone that was cut off by flooding.
Flood waters broke through a the river bank in 2018 and cut off the 1.5-mile loop in the river, leaving irrigation systems and homes without water and drying up wildlife habitat. The proposed work would add rock and vegetation to the breeched river bank to divert water back into the channel, lengthening the river by more than a mile and decreasing the speed and slope of the water.
Over the course of history, railroad and highway work and agricultural projects have straightened and diverted the river more than 100 times, cutting off at least 35 miles of meanders. The result is a steeper slope in the overall river, which increases the speed of flowing water, causes more erosion downstream and makes the river valley less resilient during major flooding.
The McCleary Channel Restoration Project is estimated to cost $199,827, which would be shared by the landowner, FWP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
An environmental assessment of the project was completed this month and is available for review online at fwp.mt.gov and follow the links to news and recent public notices.
Comments on the proposal are due by Monday, Oct. 12, 2020. They may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to:
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
2300 Lake Elmo Drive
Billings, MT 59105