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Blanchard Creek

Location map for Blanchard Creek in the Blackfoot Watershed

Blanchard Creek before restorationBlanchard Creek is a small tributary to the lower Clearwater River. Blanchard Creek was historically dewatered in its lower one mile from irrigation withdrawal. Fish population surveys in 1990 indicated this dewatering, associated poor fish passage at headgates for two irrigation canals, and the Highway 200 stream crossing negatively impacted the fishery in the lower reaches of the tributary. Other problems identified in the drainage were road erosion and livestock impacts to the riparian area. In order to prioritize restoration resources, we developed a fisheries-based restoration priority scorecard, based on biological, social and financial considerations, for 83 impaired tributaries of the Blackfoot River. Blanchard Creek ranked 13 of 83 streams surveyed.

Interest in maintaining the health of this stream by the ranch owners through maintenance of a minimum flow has resulted in a water lease arrangement. The arrangement involves stopping diversion of stream flows once Blanchard Creek reaches 3 cfs, which generally accommodates the early season of irrigation for crop production. The release of flows after 3 cfs has resulted in some crop losses late in the season that are being reimbursed at an agreed upon value.

Blanchard Creek after restorationIn 1993, "fish-friendly" diversion structures were constructed and fitted with fish ladders at both diversion points. The culvert under Highway 200 was also modified to facilitate fish passage. Improved riparian grazing management was initiated by Plum Creek Timber Company and the Department of Natural Resource Conservation.

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Blackfoot Valley Watershed
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Mountain-Prairie Region
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service