Most Montana anglers would agree that the Bitterroot River is one of the state’s most dangerous floats, mostly because the riverbed changes each year and scads of woody debris clogs some portions of the river. To put it bluntly, you have to be pretty good on the sticks, especially during spring and early summer, to navigate the river safely.
On top of that, the Bitterroot contains a side channel with a diversion dam that has, over the years, wreaked havoc on floaters. Last year, in fact, a person died there. Even savvy veteran guides get anxious when nearing the dam. In response to a death last year and numerous other incidents at the dam, FWP is seeking comment on whether to close that side channel for the 2015 season before repairs can be made to the dam, making it safer, by 2016. Here’s the rest of the story from the Helena Independent Record.
Allowing Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks the authority to temporarily close a section of the Bitterroot River for public safety is a “knee-jerk” overreach of state authority with statewide implications, several river guides and floaters told the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission Thursday.
Before the commission was a proposed annual rule to close the river at Supply Ditch Diversion, an irrigation structure that has caused multiple accidents including one fatality in 2013. FWP signage and media coverage alerted floaters to the danger, yet in 2014 more accidents occurred. On April 11 last year, FWP instituted an emergency public safety closure for a 5-mile stretch.
“There was some controversy over that (closure),” said FWP chief of fisheries Bruce Rich.
That controversy included legal action against the department that was later dropped, and criticism that the closure caused overcrowding on MORE