Vermilion River Native Fish Habitat Restoration (MT)

Recipient: Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group Foundation Federal Funding: $16,800 Foundation Non-Federal Funding: $11,200 Matching Funds: $75,000 Project Area/Location: Vermilion River, Sanders County, northwestern Montana
Total Funding: $103,000

The Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group will restore three miles of native bull trout and westslope cutthroat trout habitat in the Vermilion River. The project will stabilize the single largest sediment source (700 tons/yr) in the drainage area.  The Vermilion River is a primary bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) spawning stronghold in the Lower Clark Fork ecosystem of northwestern Montana. The Vermilion also provides habitat for a strong population of westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi). The project will restore and enhance habitat to increase the populations of these 2 native species by stabilizing the single largest contributor of sediment into the Vermilion River—a 300’ long, 140’ high eroding mass waste site that delivers approximately 700 tons per year of fine sediment (under average flood conditions) into a high priority spawning area. Activities will include moving the impaired reach of river away from the toe of the slide into a historic channel. This will involve re-shaping the current channel into floodplain and installing in-stream grade control structures and fish habitat features. Disturbed areas will be re-vegetated with native plants. Outcomes include reductions in high levels of sediment delivery, improvements the quantity and quality of in-stream habitat in three river miles, and an increase in the number of native salmonids. Project partners include the Lower Clark Fork Watershed Group, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Avista, Sanders County Resource Advisory Committee and US Forest Service.

All Districts: District 1 (MT)