Montana Water News
January 29, 2008

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Montana Water Center Research and Fellowship Awards
The Water Center reviewed several competitive fellowship proposals from Montana University System students and awarded three fellowships.

Sabrina Behnke, an M.S. candidate in Microbiology at Montana State University, received an award for her drinking water quality work to determine how susceptible detached biofilm particles are to chlorine disinfection. Matt Corsi, a Fish and Wildlife doctoral student at the University of Montana, will study the hybridization between westslope cutthroat trout and rainbow trout, and the effects of an irrigation project on native westslope cutthroat management. And, Tyler Smith, an M.S. student in Civil Engineering at Montana State University, earned a fellowship for his work to better understand the physical controls of snowmelt dynamics by developing a predictive modeling framework.

In addition, faculty researchers throughout the Montana University System submitted proposals for funding. These USGS research grants are especially earmarked for new MUS researchers who need seed funding for projects that can help solve water-related and/or aquatic habitat problems in Montana. This year’s three award recipients are:

Dr. Winsor Lowe, an assistant professor at the University of Montana, was awarded $6,930 for his research titled The Importance of Ecologically Connected Streams to the Biological Diversity of Watersheds: A Case Study in the St. Regis River Subbasin, Montana. This research will investigate the importance of healthy and connected headwater stream networks to Idaho Giant salamander (Dicamptodon atterimus) distribution, abundance, and persistence in the St. Regis River subbasin of western Montana. This species is listed as a state species of concern.

Denine Schmitz, a research associate in the Land Resources & Environmental Sciences Department of Montana State University, will receive $17,000 for a study Modeling the Potential for Transport of Contaminated Sediment from a Mine-Impacted Wetland. Her team’s work will combine surface water hydrology and hydraulics with groundwater hydrology to assess the potential for resuspension of metals from a mine-impacted wetland during large spring runoff events.

Dr. Andrew Wilcox, also an assistant professor at the University of Montana, was awarded $15,818 for his research titled: Evolution of Channel Morphology and Aquatic Habitat in the Middle Clark Fork River Following Removal of Milltown Dam. This research will contribute to dam-removal science and understanding of fluvial processes by increasing understanding of channel response to sedimentation, sediment transport dynamics, and metals transport in rivers.

An interview with Dr. Andrew Wilcox
Andrew Wilcox
Dr. Andrew Wilcox
Earlier, we interviewed Dr. Wilcox about his research on the effects of removing Milltown Dam. Wilcox is a newly appointed Assistant Professor at the University of Montana in the Department of Geosciences. Here is what he had to say.

MWC: What contributions do you feel your work studying the impacts of removing Milltown Dam will have on dam-removal science and understanding related fluvial processes?

AW: Dam removals create exciting field-scale experiments in which we can learn about how rivers respond to increases in sediment supply, which is a fundamental driver of river processes, and reconnection to their upstream watersheds. With our studies of the Milltown Dam removal, we hope to contribute to understanding of how rivers “process” pulses of sediment, including how sediment pulses change the shape and bed characteristics of downstream reaches, where sediments preferentially deposit, how long sediment pulses take to move through different types of river reaches, and the influences of tributaries. The sediment fluxes created by dam removals are analogous to less predictable sediment increases from landslides or even from longer-term changes in climate and precipitation, so there’s a lot to be learned here.

We also hope to help develop better science to guide future planned dam removals, including decisions about whether to mechanically excavate reservoir sediments, which can be extremely costly, and about whether to remove dams all at once or phased over a number of years (as is being done at Milltown). Unfortunately there are very few examples of research contributions to dam removal projects.

MWC: Have you had any surprises so far with your study of current channel conditions?

AW: In terms of channel conditions, I’ve been surprised by how much fine sediment there already is in the channel bed downstream of the dam, which was the result of a drawdown of Milltown reservoir in 2006. Normally, rivers downstream of dams have coarse, “armored” beds because dams have cut off sediment supply. And some of the earlier sediment transport studies related to Milltown dam removal suggested that fine sediments eroded out of the reservoir would move downstream in suspension, without depositing on the bed. Understanding the dynamics of fine sediment transport and deposition is critical because of the negative effects on aquatic habitat fine sediment can have.

Another surprise is that everything related to the dam removal is on schedule! It seems like projects of this magnitude always have delays for one reason or another; proposed dam removals on the Elwha River in Washington have been repeatedly pushed back. Finally, I was quite surprised that when I arrived in Missoula to start my faculty position this fall, very little had been planned in terms of studying downstream sedimentation issues associated with removal of the dam. This seemed remarkable given the high profile of Milltown Dam and the importance of this river. So I’m glad this grant will help me undertake this important research.

MWC: Your work will provide information that can be used for computer modeling in the future, especially with sediment transport and sediment geochemistry. What specific applications do you see from this?

AW: Quantitatively predicting sediment transport dynamics associated with dam removal is tremendously important. Good modeling can help guide decisions about how much sediment may need to be mechanically excavated to avoid excessive downstream sedimentation impacts. When tens of millions of dollars are being spent on sediment removal from Milltown, we can see why having better tools for modeling and predicting sediment transport is important. Models can help us predict downstream locations where sediment deposition is most likely, assisting planning related to potential habitat impacts.

But existing models are flawed, in part because this is a complex problem, but also because of the absence of significant dam removals with which to validate or test model predictions. For example, since the removal of a dam on the Sandy River in Oregon last summer, scientists have observed that sediment has been evacuated from the reservoir there and transported downstream much faster than computer models suggested. In our work we plan on combining one-dimensional and two-dimensional modeling of sediment transport in the Clark Fork and using our field data to test and improve the modeling.

MWC: Your work will provide an opportunity to field test flume-derived theories on sediment supply and fine-sediment infiltration in gravel-bed rivers. What theories are you testing and what do you hope to gain from that?

AW: Sediment transport in rivers is notoriously difficult to measure because it happens at high flows and is quite variable, so much of what we know about sediment transport dynamics is based on laboratory experiments in flume models of rivers. Recent flume studies have found that pulses of fine sediment over a gravel bed cause infiltration of fines and creation of a “seal” within the coarse interstices, but that this seal can be relatively thin and short lived and can in fact increase the overall mobility of the bed surface. Understanding the behavior of any such seal of fine sediments is critical. For example, will it limit groundwater-surface water exchange and affect water supplies? Will it promote downstream transport of subsequent fine-sediment supply instead of continued, long-term filling of the bed with fines? What will be the habitat impacts? Our work will provide a great opportunity to test some of these flume results and to evaluate how previous flume research scales up to larger rivers like the Clark Fork.

MWC: Downstream of Milltown Dam, the river is designated critical habitat for bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus), a threatened species that uses the river as a migration corridor and for overwintering habitat. The river also supports Westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisi). What are their general habitat and oxygen requirements and how might sediment flows after dam removal impact these, or other, species of concern? 

AW: Although I’m not a fish biologist, my understanding is that bull trout and cutthroat trout can overwinter in pools and interstitial spaces between coarse sediments in the river. Filling of pools and interstitial spaces with fine sediments could therefore negatively affect these fishes (and others such as sculpins). If these sediments have metal contamination, this could add to the impacts. Sediment impacts may add to the stresses fish are already experiencing as a result of increased water temperatures. Among the key issues our geomorphic studies can address is how long these sediment impacts will persist, and how far downstream of the dam they will extend.

MWC: How might new sediment coming down the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers from upstream of the dam site impact your studies?

AW: We will take advantage of differences in the content of arsenic, copper and other metals among sediments originating from the Blackfoot, Milltown reservoir, and the upper CFR to “fingerprint” the sediment samples we collect from the CFR downstream of Milltown. Small differences in the geochemical signatures of those sediments can be detected at UM’s Environmental Biogeochemistry Lab, which will allow us to determine the approximate origin of fine sediments we collect following dam removal.

MWC: Obviously, studying sediment transport on a river as big as the Clark Fork can be challenging. How are you preparing for that?

AW: We will take advantage of some new technologies that will allow us to safely collect data during high flows. For example, we’ll use an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, which can be mounted on a wireless remote-controlled boat, for collecting data on river hydraulics and sediment transport. Before the spring flows rise, we also plant to mount Optical Backscatter devices at select locations in the river (e.g., on bridge piers). These are small instruments with data-loggers that can be used to determine suspended sediment transport. We’ll also work with the U.S. Geological Survey on collecting sediment transport data from bridges.

MWC: How do you plan to involve students in the project?

AW: Students in both my Fluvial Geomorphology class and in Dr. Johnnie Moore’s Aquatic Geochemistry class this spring, and in subsequent classes in future years, will collect and analyze geomorphic and geochemical data that will contribute both to their education and to Milltown-related studies. Students from Salish-Kootenai College will assist with field research during summers. I’ll also have new graduate students starting this summer whose research will be devoted to Milltown studies.

MWC: Anything else?

AW: One of the key factors that will influence sediment transport out of the Milltown reservoir is how high and how long spring peak flows are in coming years. Bigger flows may reduce fine sediment impacts, because rather than slowly bleeding out of the reservoir, fines could be more quickly washed downstream. So think snow!

Calculate your Water Footprint
H2O Conserve
Finding one’s carbon footprint, energy footprint, and ecological (or environmental) footprint is relevant to today’s over-populated world. Now there's a way to find your water footprint. It accounts for water in food, materials you use, energy, direct use of water and more. Find your water footprint at the H2O Conserve website at
Smith River Management Plan
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has created a new web page for public comment and appointed a citizen advisory committee to aid in the updating of the Smith River State Park and River Corridor Management Plan in 2008. The plan provides direction on issues such as how boat camps are selected, the permit allocation system, food storage, human waste management, and the pet policy. The public may comment at any point during the planning process on the web page at, by email to, or by phone at (406) 444-3888.

2008 Montana Water Teacher of the Year Nominations
The Montana Water Teacher of the Year award is intended to recognize formal and non-formal educators who help young people learn about and appreciate Montana’s water resources. The award is $100 to the educator and $100 to their school or appropriate education program. To nominate an educator, visit and download the nomination form. Nominations must be received by February 22, 2008. Awards will be presented at the Montana Environmental Education Association conference in Helena on March 14, 2008.
AWRA Spring & Summer Specialty Conferences
2008 AWRA Summer Specialty Conference
Riparian Ecosystems and Buffers: Working at the Water's Edge
June 30 - July 2, 2008, Virginia Beach, VA
Abstract Deadline: February 4, 2008.
Visit for all information regarding the conference and additional information on abstracts and topics.

2008 AWRA Spring Specialty Conference
GIS & Water Resources IV
March 17 - 19, 2008, San Mateo, CA
Early Registration: Ends February 25, 2008
Conference sessions will cover a broad range of integrative geospatial hydrologic technologies. Visit for more information.

Voices from the Waters 2008: 3rd International Film Festival on Water
Campaign for the Fundamental Right to Water is accepting submissions for the third International Voices from the Waters -- the largest international film festival on water. Contribute short, documentary, animation and feature films (DVD format only) on water and related issues. The festival will be held in August 2008, and the deadline for entries is April 30, 2008. For more information email, or visit
FEMA Seeking Volunteers
FEMA is currently seeking volunteers for FY2008's Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program National Evaluation. If you are interested in nominating yourself or someone else as a National Evaluator, contact Mary Taylor at Nominations are due February 1, 2008.
NSF Undergraduate Research Fellowships Available at
Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech is accepting applications for a 10-week summer undergraduate research in interdisciplinary watershed sciences and engineering, funded through the National Science Foundation Undergraduate Research Experience (NSF REU) program. Successful applicants will join one of the ongoing research projects in water environment sciences and engineering at Virginia Tech and conduct individual research under the supervision of one or more faculty members. Please visit the website at for details and application requirements. Application deadline is March 1, 2008. Contact Dr. Tamim Younos at for more information.
Montana Wetland Council Meeting
The Montana Wetland Council will meet on January 31, 2008, from 9:30 am to 4:00 pm in the DEQ Director's Conference Room, 1520 East 6th Avenue, Helena. The meeting will include presentations on these topics:
  • Locally led conservation partnership of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance in southern Phillips County
  • Scientific study evaluating the vulnerability and losses of isolated wetlands in Montana
  • Sodbusting in Montana's Prairie Pothole Region
  • Opportunities that the new farm bill and Joint Ventures presents for conservation
  • Panel discussion on actions items related to the Council's new Strategic Framework for Wetland and Riparian Area Conservation and Restoration in Montana 2008-2012.

For more information, please contact Lynda Saul of the Montana DEQ at (406) 444-6652 or

No Adverse Impact Conference
The No Adverse Impact Conference will be held February 21 - 22, 2008, at Fairmont Hot Springs. The Big Hole Watershed Committee welcomes anyone concerned about land use planning, particularly as it relates to development in floodplains and riparian areas. Edward A. Thomas, developer of the No Adverse Impact (NAI) approach to floodplain and storm water management, will be a featured speaker. There is a February 8, 2008, deadline for both early registration and scholarship applications. For more details visit
Drought Advisory Committee Meetings for 2008
The next two meetings of the Governor’s Drought Advisory Committee will be Thursday, March 13, 2008, and Thursday, April 17, 2008. These meetings are scheduled in the Director’s Conference Room, Room 111 at the DEQ's Lee Metcalf Building, 1520 East 6th Avenue in Helena.
Job Listings
Montana Trout Internship
Assist Montana Trout as an intern in Missoula, Montana by advancing Montana Trout’s wild trout conservation work. Work may include helping to develop and coordinate restoration and education projects, assisting with fundraising and grant writing, or outreach activities. Apply by February 15, 2008, for the 12-week Spring session. For additional application deadlines and more information visit
Books & Resources
Wetland and Watershed Articles
The Center for Watershed Protection has published a series of wetlands and watersheds articles. The articles provide guidance to local communities on how to integrate wetlands into larger watershed protection efforts. Read the full articles at

Do you have more news?

The Montana Water Center News welcomes your stories about water and water issues that face Montana. If you have a short story you would like to see published in this newsletter, please send your information to
Meetings of Note

Take special note of upcoming national and local water meetings on the Events Calendar at MONTANA WATER.

Event Minnesota Wetland Conference, St. Paul, MN, January 30, 2008 [INFO]

Event 5th EverythingAboutWater EXPO 2008, Mumbai, Maharashtraa, India, January 31 - February 2, 2008 [INFO]

Event Montana Wetland Council, Helena, January 31, 2008 [INFO]

Event Culvert Design Workshop, Post Falls, ID, February 5, 2008 [INFO]

Event Cultivate Montana Agriculture Industry Career Fair, Bozeman, February 6, 2008 [INFO]

Event An Evening About Colorado's Water Resources, Fort Collins, CO, February 9, 2008 [INFO]

Event No Adverse Impact Conference, Fairmont, February 21 - 22, 2008 [INFO]

Event 13th Water Conservation/Xeriscape Conference, Albuquerque, NM, February 21 - 24, 2008 [INFO]

Event Utility Management Conference 2008, Tampa, FL, February 24 - 27, 2008 [INFO]

Event 17th Annual Montana Environmental Education Association Conference, Helena, March 13 - 15, 2008 [INFO]

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