Starting in 2017, NRCS will invest $1.7 million in the Upper Clark Fork River Drought Resiliency Project to improve water quantity through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is a partner-driven, locally-led approach to conservation. It offers new opportunities for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to harness innovation, welcome new partners to the conservation mission, and demonstrate the value and efficacy of voluntary, private lands conservation.
Severe competition for water in this basin prompted the Montana Legislature to close the Upper Clark Fork to new water rights appropriations in 1995, one of the first basins in the state to do so. Today, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks classifies 100+ stream miles in the river and 10 of its tributaries above Deer Lodge as “dewatered,” stressing both agricultural operations and aquatic habitat. The Upper Clark Fork basin offers a unique opportunity to restore water resources and aquatic habitat on a basin-wide scale while benefiting agricultural operations with diverse water-saving practices. This project will implement major water conservation projects such as piping three leaky canals, constructing six new diversions, doubling the flow in a critical reach of the Clark Fork River, preventing entrainment of native fish, while also addressing the impacts of drought on forest and grazing lands in the upper watershed.
Applications for FY 2017 EQIP Upper Clark Fork River Drought Resiliency RCPP Project are due March 17, 2017.