Water Committee Update 4/18

The MACD Water Committee met on Monday April 18 to discuss the work plan for the committee.

The committee’s first priority is dealing with Resolution 15-1 and planning how to implement the resolution’s mandate. R15-1 directed MACD to simplify floodplain permits and remove the current legal and financial barriers to bio-engineering type projects. The resolution was sponsored by Lewis & Clark CD, and Jeff Ryan explained that new methods for streambank restoration such as willow lifts and other low-cost bioengineering are sometimes not permittable under floodplain regulations, and other times the permits require cost-prohibitive engineering that defeats the purpose of using bio-engineering in the first place.

The water committee’s task is to work to overcome these barriers to alternative restoration methods. They hope to do so by facilitating a meeting with other groups who have similar concerns. Hopefully, by pulling together a larger coalition with the same mission, we can facilitate a proposal that will result in the revision of the floodplain permitting rules.

The second large item on the committee’s agenda this year is exploring the topic of 404 assumption—i.e. whether or not it would be feasible for Conservation Districts to take over 404 permitting in Montana. The hope is that this would simplify the permitting process and provide a more local contact for 404 permits. However, there are significant legal, technical, and financial barriers that need to be explored. Jeff Ryan will be attending a State Water Policy Interim Committee meeting to discuss the matter.

In addition to these tasks, the Water Committee is also staying up to date on the status of the Waters Of The US adjudications, and in future meetings will be discussing how to do more public outreach on 310 permits, and looking at various water rights/measurement concerns.

The Water Committee is looking for 2-3 more CD Supervisors who are interested in water topics and would like to participate in committee activities. If you’d like to join the discussion, please contact Elena Evans or watch for announcements of the next committee meeting.

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