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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. Parameters tested include temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, turbidity, chloride, nitrate, total dissolved solids, pH, algae, macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects) and sediment size.
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.
Community Outreach and Education Program
The Community Outreach and Education Program provides important water resource information to the visitors and residents of the Big Sky area. The BWTF performs several outreach and education activities each year. One example of activities in this program is assisting in the development and teaching of water quality lessons that are incorporated in science curriculums at Ophir School and Lone Peak High School. Another example was a workshop held in May 2013 to educate the Big Sky Golf Course Maintenance Crew on irrigation and fertilizer practices to reduce nitrogen runoff to the West Fork. Check out the article written about this 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.
Also keep a look out for our informational signs at the following sampling sites: West Fork, North Fork, Ousel and Community. 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 interfering with proper watershed function. The Blue Water Task Force was the 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 assesment 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. 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 of the Gallatin River "West Fork" Watershed because of its failure to meet water quality standards set by the MTDEQ for nitrogen, E. coli and sediment. Specfic 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 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 at the end 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 barbecue provided by the BWTF.