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Summary environmental impact statement for water reservation applications in the Upper Clark Fork Basin online

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Samma-rv
environmental
impact statement
for water
reservation
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the Upper Clark





ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT

FOR WATER RESERVATION

APPLICATIONS

IN THE




January 1991

Montana Department of Natural Resources

and Conservation



CHAPTER ONE



INTRODUCTION



In December 1988, the Department of Natural Re-
sources and Conservation (DNRC) released the draft
environmental impact statement (EIS) on the upper
Clark Fork basin water reservation applications. The
draft EIS examines water reservation requests from the
Granite Conservation District (GCD) and the Montana
Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (DFWP). GCD
is seeking a water reservation on the North Fork of
Lower Willow Creek to supply water to supplement
irrigation on 2,900 acres of land west of Hall. This
project would require a new dam upstream from the
existing Lower Willow Creek reservoir. DFWP is re-
questing reservarions to maintain instream flows on
the main-stem Clark Fork and 17 tributaries above
Milltown Dam for the protection of fish, wildlife, and
recreation and to maintain dilution flows for water
quality purposes.

Following publication of the draft EIS, the public
was given 90 days to comment. DNRC held public
meetings in Drummond, Deer Lodge, and Bonner in
January 1989, and vmtten comments were accepted
until March 16, 1989.

A second reservation request for water on Boulder
Creek had been included in GCUs original application
(1987), but was omitted from the draft EIS on the basis
of a meeting between GCD and DNRC in the spring of
1988. In July 1989, the GCD board chairman sent a
letter to DNRC stating GCD's intent to pursue the
Boulder Creek proposal, necessitating an addendum to
the draft EIS. The addendum was published in March
1990, and examines GCD's proposal to reserve water
on Boulder Creek to irrigate 4,093 acres of land south-
east of Hall. This project would require a new dam on
Boulder Creek. The public comment period of 30 days
was extended 15 additional days. A public meeting
was held in Drummond on April 4, 1990, and written
comments were accepted until May 1, 1990.

The final EIS summarizes, updates, and re\ises the
draft and addendum in response to the 490 written and
oral comments received. New and additional informa-
tion is presented to clarify the analyses contained in the



draft EIS and addendum. Some of this information
was not available when the draft and addendum were
prepared. Written and oral comments are presented
with DNRC's responses in Chapter Four. The final EIS
does not contain recommendations from DNRC to the
Board of Natural Resources and Conservation (Board)
regarding action on the pending water reservation
applications. The decision of whether to grant, modify,
or deny a reservation rests with the Board, not DNRC,
and will be made after a contested case hearing is held
to receive testimony from the applicants and objectors.
When deliberating on each reservation application, the
Board will rely on information from the application,
the draft and final EISs, and evidence presented at the
contested case hearing.

Notice of the contested case hearing will be served
by first-class mail upon all water right claimants and
permittees of record in the upper Clark Fork basin and
other persons that may be affected by the proposed
reservations. Legal notice will be published in local
newspapers, and news releases will also be sent to the
newspapers.

Any affected person can participate in the hearings
process, either by presenting public testimony without
filing an objection or by filing a formal objection to a
water reservation application. The notice of the con-
tested case hearing will describe the procedure for
participating.

The following summary is provided for readers
who do not need the entire EIS. Copies of the complete
Final EIS are available on request from DNRC.



Introduction



CHAPTER TWO



SUMMARY OF THE DRAFT EIS AND ADDENDUM



BOARD DECISION CRITERIA

The draft EIS and the addendum to the draft
present DNRC's analyses of the environmental impacts
of granting or denying GCD's and DFWP's requests for
water reservations in the upper Clark Fork basin. The
decision of whether to grant or deny these reservations
rests with the Board, which must abide by the follow-
ing criteria for granting a reservation.

Qualifications and Purpose

The Board must find that the applicant is qualified
to reserve water and that the purpose of the reservation
is a beneficial use (§ 85-2-316(1) and 85-2-316(4)(a)(i),
MCA; ARM 36.16.107B(1)).

Need

The Board must find that the reservation is needed
(§ 85-2-316(4)(a)(ii), MCA). A reservation is needed if
"there is a reasonable likelihood that future instate or
out-of-state competing water uses would consume,
degrade, or otherwise affect the water available for the
purpose of the reservation" (ARM 36.16.107B (2)(a)), or
if "there are constraints that would restrict the appli-
cant from perfecting a water pemnit for the intended
purpose of the reservation" (ARM 36.16.107B(2)(c)).

Amount

The Board must determine the amount needed to
fulfill the purpose of the reservation (§85-2-316(4)
(A)(iii), MCA). This amount must be based on "accu-
rate and suitable" methods and assumptions. The
Board must find that there are no "reasonable cost-
effective measures that could be taken within the reser-
vation term to increase the use efficiency and lessen the
amount of water required" (ARM 36.16.107(3)).

Public Interest

The Board must find that the reservation is in the
public interest (§ 85-2-316(4)(a)(iv), MCA). In making
this determination, the Board must weigh and balance



"(a) whether the expected benefits of applying the
reserved water to beneficial use are reasonably likely to
exceed the costs; (b) whether the net benefits associated
with granting a reservation exceed the net benefits of
not granting the reservation; (c) whether there are no
reasonable alternatives to the proposed reservation that
have greater net benefits; (d) whether failure to reserve
the water will or is likely to result in an irretrievable
loss of a natural resource or an irretrievable loss of a
resource development opportunity; and (e) whether
there are no significant adverse impacts to public
health, welfare, and safety." The Board may also con-
sider other factors it finds relevant (ARM
36.16.107B(4)).

Diligence

If the purpose of the reservation requires construc-
tion of a storage or diversion facility, the applicant
shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board that there
will be progress toward completion of the facility and
accomplishment of the purpose with reasonable dili-
gence in accordance with an established plan (§ 85-2-
316(5), MCA).

No Adverse Effect on Senior Water Rights

The reservation, as proposed for adoption, must
not adversely affect water rights in existence at the
time of adoption (§ 85-2-316(9), MCA). A reservation
cannot be granted if the record of the contested case
hearing shows that the exercise of senior water rights
would be adversely affected.



SUMMARIES

The remainder of this chapter summarizes the
results of DNRC's analyses of the social and environ-
mental effects of granting all, some, or none of the
water requested and of putting the water to use as
proposed by the applicants. The information presented
here is excerpted primarily from chapters Two, Five,
Six, and Eight of the draft EIS and from chapters One,
Three, and Four of the addendum.



Summary



The results are presented here under the relevant Board decision criteria, but do not
represent determinations, conclusions, or recommendations of whether any one reservation
request satisfies any of the given criteria. Such determinations are made solely by the
Board after considering additional information from the contested case hearing.



GCD'S REQUEST ON THE NORTH FORK OF
LOWER WILLOW CREEK

GCD is requesting a reservation on the North Fork
of Lower Willow Creek, a tributary of Flint Creek, to
provide water for supplemental irrigation on 2,900
acres of land west of Hall, as shown in Figure 2-1. This
project would require a new dam on the North Fork of
Lower Willow Creek. The proposed dam would be 113
feet high, 1,070 feet long, and would store 5,000 acre-
feet (af) in a 112-acre reservoir. No new canals would
be needed. Water would be released into the North
Fork of Lower Willow Creek to refill the exisHng Lower
Willow Creek reservoir.

Qualifications and Purpose

GCD was organized under the state Conservation
Districts Act {§ 76-15-101, et seq., MCA) in 1954. Con-
servation districts are political subdivisions of the state.
The stated purpose of the requested reservation is to
provide water for supplemental irrigation, which is a
beneficial use as defined in Section 85-2-102(2)(a),
MCA.

Need

GCD has applied for a reservation and not a permit
because it cannot build the project under present eco-
nomic conditions (GCD 1987). Competing water uses
that may limit future water availability on the North
Fork of Lower Willow Creek include DP^WP's request
for instream flow reservations on Flint Creek and the
Clark Fork main stem. GCD's project would conflict
with DFWP's requested reservations in March and
April under average flow conditions. Potential devel-
opment of irrigable lands on the Clark Fork also may
require flows from upstream tributaries.



Amount

GCD has requested up to 11,165 af/year (15.4 cfs)
of water to irrigate 2,900 acres of land, but acknowl-
edges that the amount needed for the new reservoir



may be less than this. The 11,165 af estimate includes
water for lands that are already irrigated with water
from Lower Willow Creek reservoir. But the existing
reservoir currently meets project demand for full-ser-
vice irrigation in only 5 years out of 10. The requested
reservation would allow GCD to build a new reservoir
to catch high spring flows, which would provide for
full-service irrigation in 8 years out of 10. The amount
was determined based on local crop needs and pro-
jected delivery efficiencies. The water would be deliv-
ered through existing canals and wheelline sprinkler
irrigation systems. DNRC found no economically fea-
sible alternatives that would increase project efficiency
or reduce the amount of water required.

Public Interest

The draft HIS examined the benefits and costs of
granting GCD's reservation request on the North Fork
of Lower Willow Creek. A summary and comparison
of the significant benefits and costs is provided here.

Benefits

If GCD's project on the North Fork of Lower Wil-
low Creek returns a profit, it would directly benefit
about 20 ranching families by increasing hay yields by
2,000 tons annually on 2,900 acres of land that is al-
ready irrigated. Indirect benefits would include im-
proved recreation on the existing Lower Willow Creek
reservoir due to higher and more stable water levels.
The project could also slightly increase business in-
come and county tax revenues.

Return flows from the North Fork of Lower Willow
Creek project would increase streamflows during the
high-demand season at MFC's hydropower dams at
Milltown and Thompson Falls. These flow increases
would offset springtime depletions that would occur
when the MFC dams typically spill water. In an aver-
age flow year, the project would allow MFC to increase
net annual power production by an estimated 79,600
kWh. This is an annual benefit of $1,751 at current
wholesale power rates.



Chapter Two



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Summary



Costs



Irretrievable Losses



DNRC estimates project costs to be a minimum of
$9.97 million, which is three times greater than GCD's
estimate of $2.9 million. This disparity is due primarily
to differences in the estimated costs of the spillway and
outlet works.

Indirect costs of the project on the North Fork of
Lower Willow Creek would include possible degrada-
tion of fish habitat due to reduced spring flows in the
2.9-mile stream reach between the proposed and exist-
ing reservoirs, flooding of wildlife habitat and irrigated
land at the reservoir site, and the preclusion of other
uses of the water consumed by the project. Project
depletions of streamflow would reduce hydropower
production at WWP's Noxon Rapids dam by an esti-
mated 8I3OO kWh on average. This is an annual cost
of $1,789 at current wholesale power rates. Coupled
with MFC's net annual gain of an estimated 79,600
kWh, the net effect would be an annual loss in
Montana of 1,700 kWh, or $38 at current wholesale
power rates. The project would reduce power produc-
tion at Columbia River hydroelectric plants down-
stream from Montana by an estimated 800,440 kWh in
an average year. This is an annual cost of $17,610 at
current wholesale power rates.

Comparison of Net Benefits and Costs

DNRC estimates that the supplemental irrigation
supplied by the project would provide net annual re-
turns of $30 per acre. Based on DNRC's estimates of
project costs, net annual returns from the supplemental
irrigation would have to be $161 per acre for project
benefits to exceed costs.

GCD's estimated costs would require a net annual
return of $45 per acre from the supplemental irrigation.
If GCD's higher yield and price estimates are used, net
annual returns would be $90 p>er acre.

Based on DNRC's yield and price estimates, project
costs would exceed benefits.



Granting GCD a reservation for this project would
give the district an earlier priority date than it would
have if it obtained a permit when the project is built. If
the dam and reservoir are constructed, 112 acres of
currently irrigated pasture would be inundated. Re-
duced flows in the 2.9 mile reach below the proposed
dam could imperil a population of pure strain,
westlope cutthroat trout, a species with limited distri-
bution.

Public Health. Welfare, and Safety

GCD's proposed dam on the North Fork of Lower
Willow Creek would be classified as a high-hazard
dam, requiring measures to protect public safety. In an
average flow year, the project would slightly reduce
the net annual amount of water available to dilute
arsenic in Flint Creek, possibly violating current state
water quality standards for arsenic. See Chapter Three
of the final EIS for a description of arsenic levels in the
upper Clark Fork basin.

GCD'S REQUEST ON BOULDER CREEK

GCD is requesting a reservation on Boulder Creek,
a tributary of Flint Creek, to provide new irrigation to
4,093 acres of land southeast of Hall, as shown in Fig-
ure 2.2. This project would require a new dam on
Boulder Creek. The proposed dam would be 145 feet
high, 1,150 feet long, and would store 8,500 af in a 145-
acre reservoir. Approximately 33 miles of new canal
are proposed to deliver water to project lands.



Qualifications and Purpose

GCD was organized under the state Conservation
Districts Act (§ 76-15-101, et seq., MCA) in 1954. Con-
servation districts are political subdivisions of the state.
The stated purpose of the requested reservation is to
provide water for new irrigation, which is a beneficial
use as defined in Section 85-2-1 02(2)(a), MCA.



Alternatives

Project lands might be served by using water
stored in the Georgetown Lake/Silver Lake system.
The water rights may be for sale. Preliminary cost
estimates indicate this option is economically infea-
sible, though less infeasible than GCD's proposed
project.



Need

GCD has applied for a reservation and not a permit
because it cannot build the project under present eco-
nomic conditions (GCD 1987). Competing water uses
that may limit future water availability on Boulder
Creek include DFWP's requests for instream flow res-
ervations on Boulder and Flint creeks and the Clark
Fork main stem. GCD's project would conflict with
DFWP's requested reservations in all months except for



Chapter Two



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May and June in an average flow year. Potential devel-
opment of irrigable lands on the Clark Fork also may
require flows from upstream tributaries, including
Boulder Creek.

Amount

GCD has requested 13,998 af/year based on local
crop needs and projected delivery efficiencies for sprin-
kler irrigation. Water would be stored in the reservoir
year-round. The pieak diversion rate would be 106.7
cfs, and water would be delivered through 33 miles of
new canal to sprinkler irrigation systems. If operated
as proposed by GCD, the Boulder Creek reservoir
would provide a full water supply to the 4,093 acres of
project land in roughly 8 or 9 years out of 10.

Of the alternatives examined by DNRC, lining the
canal or replacing portions of the canal w^ith a pipeline
would reduce canal seepage losses and thus reduce the
amount of water needed. Neither of these alternatives
was economically feasible.

Public Interest

The addendum examined the benefits and costs of
granting GCD's reservation request on Boulder Creek.
A summary and comparison of the significant benefits
and costs is provided here.

Benefits

If GCD's Boulder Creek project returns a profit, it
would directly benefit about 10 ranching families by
converting 4,093 acres of pasture to irrigated cropland.
Hay production could increase by about 10,000 tons a
year. Indirect benefits would include the flatwater
recreation opportunities offered by the new reservoir,
possible flood control, increased forage for deer and
waterfowl, and increased flows in the lower reach of
Flint Creek in late summer.

Costs

DNRC estimates that the proposed project would
cost $30.4 million, which is more than twice GCD's
estimate of $14.2 million. Neither of these estimates
includes the costs of acquiring land for the dam and
reservoir, acquiring easements for the canal route, and
relocating the county road that would be flooded.

Indirect costs of the project would include degra-
dation of fish habitat and riparian vegetation along
Boulder Creek at and below the dam site, flooding of
wildlife habitat and a 1.3 nnile stretch of county road.



and the preclusion of other uses of the water.

DNRC estimates that the project would reduce
power production from the three hydroelectric plants
on the Qark Fork in Montana by 900,500 kWh in a
typical year. This is an annual cost of $19,81 1 at cur-
rent wholesale power rates. MFC's power production
would be reduced by 48,400 kWh at an annual cost of
$1,065, and WWP's power production would be re-
duced by 852,100 kWh at an annual cost of $18,746.
The project would reduce power production from
Columbia River hydroelectric plants downstream from
Montana by an estimated 8,388,500 kWh in a typical
year. At current wholesale power rates, this would be
an annual cost of $184,547.

Comparison of Net Benefits and Costs

DNRC estimates that the full-service irrigation
supplied by the Boulder Creek project would provide
net annual returns of approximately $150 per acre.
Based on DNRC's estimates of project costs, net annual
returns would have to be $358 per acre for project ben-
efits to exceed costs. Based on GCD's cost estimates,
net annual returns would have to be $167 per acre for
benefits to exceed costs. DNRC's analysis indicates
that project costs would exceed benefits.

Alternatives

DNRC examined five alternatives to GCD's pro-
posal. Three of the alternatives-modifying the canal,
building a dam on Douglas Creek, and pumping water
from Flint Creek-would substantially lower project
costs. Of these three alternatives, pumping from Flint
Creek would be the cheapest, at a cost of $17.9 million.
None of the alternatives is economically feasible.

Irretrievable Losses

Granfing GCD a reservation for this project would
give the district an earlier priority date than it would
have if it obtained a permit when the project is built.
Water would not be available for GCD's proposed
project if DFWP's requested reservation on Boulder
Creek is granted with an earlier priority date.

If the dam and reservoir are constructed, 145 acres
of marginal grassland and forest, 1.3 miles of stream
and riparian habitat, and one house would be inun-
dated.

Public Health. Welfare, and Safety

GCD's proposed dam on Boulder Creek would be



Chapter Two



classified as a high-hazard dam, requiring measures to
protect public safety. The project would reduce the net
annual amount of water available to dilute arsenic in
Flint Creek, possibly violating current state water qual-
ity standards. See Chapter Three in the final EIS for
estimates of arsenic concentrations in selected tributar-
ies of the upper Clark Fork.

DFWP'S REQUESTS FOR THE UPPER CLARK
FORK AND 17 TRIBUTARIES

DFWP is requesting instream flow reservations to
protect aquatic habitat, fish, wildlife, and recreation
year-round, and to maintain tributary flows from
January 1 to April 30 of every year to dilute pollutants
in the Clark Fork main stem. DFWP's instream flow
requests are summarized in Table 2-1. The location of
streams on which DFWP has requested reservations is
shown in Figure 2-3.

Qualifications and Purpose

As an agency of the State of Montana, DFWP is a
public entity. The stated purpose of the requested
reservations is to maintain instream flow for the pro-
tection of aquatic habitat, fisheries, wildlife, and recre-
ational resources, and to maintain winter flows for the
dilution of metals and other pollutants, which are
authorized uses under sections 85-2-102(2)(a) and
85-2-316(1), MCA.

Need

By law, a water right for instream uses can only be
obtained with a reservation and not by permit. A pilot
program to allow leasing of existing water rights is
underway, but this program may be temporary and
there are no leasing efforts underway in the upper
Clark Fork basin.

If new permits for consumptive uses continue to be
issued in the upper Clark Fork basin, the water DFWP
has requested for instream purposes would be appro-
priated for consumptive uses. In addition,
nonconsumptive uses such as small hydropower devel-
opment could deplete portions of reaches critical to
fisheries, wildlife, or recreation.

Amount

The amount of water requested for each stream or
reach is shown in Table 2-1. To grant DFWP's re-
quested reservations, the Board must find that the
methods used to determine the amount of water
needed are "accurate and suitable" (ARM 36.16.107(3)).



DFWP used the wetted perimeter inflection point
(WETP) method to determine how much instream flow
would be needed to protect aquatic habitat for fish and
associated food organisms. An overview of how
DFWP applied the WETP methodology is provided in
App>endix A of the draft EIS, and concerns raised over
the application of the WETP method also are discussed
in the draft EIS.

DFWP used the WETP method to identify the
amount of water needed to cover riffles, which DFWP
assumed are the most productive areas of a stream for
food organisms used by fish. Under this method, it is
assumed that if enough flow remains in a stream to
keep riffles wet, then the chief food-producing areas of
a stream would be maintained. It follows that if there
is enough water to cover the riffles, there would be
enough water to protect other types of stream habitat,
such as pools, bank cover, channels for fish passage,
and spawning and rearing areas.

When used correctly, the WETP method provides a
reasonably accurate estimate of the wetted perimeter
and can indicate abrupt changes in the amount of
stream bottom that remains wet as streamflow in-
creases or decreases. But the precise relationship be-
tween wetted perimeter as an indicator of aquatic habi-
tat and the standing crop (number and total weight of
fish) a stream will support has not been definitively
demonstrated in the upper Clark Fork basin. In its
application, DFWP stated that the upper and lower
inflection points are thought to bracket flows needed to


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Online LibraryMontana. Dept. of Natural Resources and ConservatiSummary environmental impact statement for water reservation applications in the Upper Clark Fork Basin → online text (page 1 of 3)