Posted: Aug 23, 2013 1:26 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
Updated: Aug 23, 2013 6:07 PM
A combination of extremely dry weather, plus a big demand for water because of the Lolo Creek Complex Fire is killing hundreds of fish, as lower Lolo Creek runs dry.
The creek often runs ‘low to nearly dry' in September, and even last year it took a last ditch volunteer effort to save the fish in the stream below Highway 93.
But this week the combination of the continued dry spell, coupled with the need for water for fire protection has created the unintended consequence of completely draining the creek.
Residents said the creek was already quite low last week, but starting Tuesday it began to disappear entirely. That's about the time fire crews had to start taking water for emergency water drops directly from Lolo Creek upstream, and residents were forced to keep sprinklers and irrigation systems running non-stop to protect their homes and property.
Thursday evening one could only find a hole or two that still had any water at all, and those were full of dead and dying fish.
The Paul Glidewell family who lives nearby were scrambling to find any live fish to scoop up and get them to fresh water in a last ditch effort to save a few. But it is apparent that most of the larger fish, minnows and crayfish, aren't going to make it. Last year a sudden infusion of water helped save the fish, but this year it might be too late for that.
The Clark Fork Coalition, local irrigators and other groups have been trying to work out a better plan for preserving late season streamflow in Lolo Creek. But even the best-developed plans could be challenged in conditions like these.