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To accomplish our mission of promoting the stewardship of the Upper Gallatin watershed, the Blue Water Task Force has four main programs:
1. Community Water Quality Monitoring
2. Community Outreach and Education
3. Watershed Resource Assessment
4. Watershed Restoration
Community Water Quality Monitoring Program
The Community Water Quality Monitoring Program includes quarterly water quality sampling at fourteen sites in the Upper Gallatin. The Upper Gallatin, from the headwaters located at Gallatin Lake in Yellowstone National Park to Spanish Creek at the mouth of the Canyon, is a 65 miles stretch of pristine river. Parameters tested at our 14 sites include temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, turbidity, chloride, nitrate, total dissolved solids, pH, algae, macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) and sediment size.
In order to accomplish our community water quality sampling the BWTF needs volunteers for both the fieldwork and laboratory analysis. No experience is required. Sampling occurs in March, June, August, and December. Summer tends to be our busiest time for sampling and monitoring including algal sampling, monitoring, macroinvertebrate sampling, measuring flow and pebble counts. Watch our News and Events page for specfic dates or Contact Us with questions.
The BWTF uses the data collected to track the health of the Gallatin River and its tributaries. Other organizations use the data to make permitting, regulation decisions and compare it to other watersheds; these organizations include the Montana State University-Bozeman, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MTDEQ), Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC).
Community Education and Outreach Program
The Community Outreach and Education Program provides important water resource information to the local residents and visitors of the Big Sky area. The BWTF performs several outreach and education activities each year. One example of activities in this program is our Trout-in-the-Classroom program at Ophir School which assists in the development and teaching of water quality lessons as a service learning criteria. Another example is our Trout Friendly Landscaping Workshop that was held in July 2014 where Montana experts presented to local landscapers and community residents on trout-friendly landscaping practices, fish ecology and impacts, water conservation and alternative fertilizer practices to help reduce nitrogen runoff to the West Fork. For other Education and Outreach events, check out a article written about another workshop in the Big Sky Weekly here .
Each year the BWTF holds an annual meeting to discuss the past year's activities and BWTF's expectations for the coming year. You can also sign up for our semi-annual newsletter on our Home Page. Our newsletter contains data results collected and upcoming events and opportunities.
Also keep a look out for our informational signs at the following sampling sites: West Fork, North Fork, Ousel and Community which are also located near popular hiking and nodic ski trails. These signs were funded by the MTDEQ Mini-Grant ProgramWatershed Resource Assessment Program
The Water Resource Assessment Program involves more intensive assessments of pollutants that have been identified as impairing the quality and funcation of our watershed. The Blue Water Task Force acts as a liason between the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (MTDEQ) and the Big Sky community for the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program. The TMDL program aims to determine if streams are being impacted by pollution. The TMDL assessment recently found that the West Fork of the Gallatin River ("West Fork"), the Middle Fork of the West Fork and the South Fork of the West Fork are impaired due to excessive nitrogen, E.Coli and sediment. You can read the full report here .
Watershed Restoration Program
After the Upper Gallatin TMDL was accepted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the fall of 2010, the BWTF took the lead on developing the Upper Gallatin Watershed Restoration Plan. The plan has a scope of three to five years, in which time, the BWTF chose to focus restoration efforts in the West Fork Watershed because of its failure to meet water quality standards set by the MTDEQ for nitrogen, E. coli and sediment. Specific restoration strategies within this plan include: 1) developing and implementing a plan to reduce nitrogen in the West Fork Watershed 2) working with the Montana Department of Transportations to reduce the sediment impacts of winter road maintenance on rivers and streams and 3) assessing and prioritizing culvert replacement projects to reduce sediment loading and improve fish passage. The BWTF and interested watershed stakeholders will review and update this plan within the next three to five years. You can read the entire document here .
In 2011, the BWTF added a new project to its restoration program, an Upper Gallatin River Clean Up. The event takes place each year during the month of September. Volunteers walk a stretch of the Gallatin River and pick up trash. Items picked up in the past include: plastic bottles, aluminum cans, lampshades, bikini bottoms, pharmaceuticals and a rusted engine block. After cleaning the river, volunteers enjoy a BBQ provided by the BWTF.