By Martin J. Kidston
The upper reaches of Beaver Creek will become the focus of an upcoming remediation project that will restore some of the deep river pools lost to highway construction over past years.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Kent Gilge said the Department of Transportation is working closely with his service in planning the project. Gilge said the goal is to undo past damages inflicted upon the creek because of highway construction.
When they first built the road, they didnt look out for the creek at all, Gilge said. Now, were working with the highway department in a stream remediation project. They intend to spend a lot of money on improving the stream.
Gilge said the stream has been shortened and channelized in some places, especially in a stretch below Rotary Hill. The hope is to restore some of the creeks meandering flow, and in doing so, provide the habitat necessary to sustain larger trout.
There is one section below Rotary Hill where were looking at rerouting the creek, Gilge said. Well put some drop structures in and create deep pools for trout. The creek is wide and shallow in that location and the deeper holes hold larger fish. That is our goal, to provide the habitat to support that type of fish.
Gilge said some bank and bridge stabilization work has already been done, but it wasnt part of the Beaver Creek remediation project. The pending improvements to the creek itself will be a joint effort between the DOT and the FWP.
The remediation work on Beaver Creek is in the planning stages right now, Gilge said. He added that the plan isnt together yet and probably wont be for another year. When the work finally begins, the Highway Department will likely incorporate stream remediation with the Beaver Creek road project.
Beaver Creek begins just below Mount Baldy, which is the highest peak in the Bear Paw Mountains, reaching an elevation of 6,916 feet. The creek is fed by Sucker Creek along with numerous coulees and gulches as it meanders through the flats of Beaver Creek Park. Within the park, the creek is damned at three locations, forming Gravel, Bear Paw and Lower Bear Paw Lakes, before it flows freely into the Milk River just west of Havre. It is the home to several trout species and provides water to the areas wildlife.
We will try to correct the problems created by past highway construction, Gilge said. But it will never be like it was, it will just be an improvement.