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BRWF Katie Vennie and volunteers

Katie Vennie, (front) oversees the work of Frank Pelfrery, Levi White, and other community partners Thursday who worked in the light snow to restore a section of shore on the Bitterroot River that had experienced significant erosion.

Much of Hamilton’s charm and vitality is from the beautiful Bitterroot River flowing through the community.

Hamilton River Park is a favorite area providing safe walking, play areas, summer time picnics, dog walking, and fishing. Yet one of the stream banks on the north side of the park has been experiencing significant erosion, which lowers water quality, harms the aquatic life, and fills in fish spawning habitat.

On Thursday, the Bitter Root Water Forum, in partnership with the City of Hamilton and community volunteers, restored a portion of the stream bank.

Katie Vennie, program assistant with the forum, said the partnerships have been wonderful.

“It’s been great to partner with the city,” she said. “Donny Ramer in the Public Works Department has been working with us to get the project off the ground.”

Despite the snow and cold, nearly a dozen community and Trapper Creek Job Corps volunteers pitched in to restore the eroding bank.

“Our volunteers are tougher than the weather,” Vennie said. “This area did have riprap but the riprap failed and ended up in the river. We’re building up the area between the river and walking path, planting native riparian plants in order to have the roots hold in the bank, shade the stream and provide important habitat for birds and wildlife.”

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The volunteers also built a split-rail fence to protect the area while the young plants are growing.

The project was funded through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act from the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency, and in partnership with Montana Watershed Coordination Council.

“It is a non-point source pollution program - which is something you can’t point a finger at like temperature, sediment, or nutrients,” Vennie said. “This is a good example of an excessive amount of soil going into the stream.”

Trapper Creek Job Corps volunteer Levi White, in the natural resources trade, was digging post holes for the fence.

“Personally, I’ve learned a lot about botany today,” White said. “They’ve already taught me a handful of things - I had never heard of riparian before.”

The Bitter Root Water Forum has been actively engaged in stream bank restoration projects for the past ten years. For more information about their work and volunteering, call 375-2272 or online visit www.brwaterforum.org.

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