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Disaster in the West

As most of you heard by now we have had a wet late spring and early summer in much of Wyoming and Montana. And when I say wet it has been wet, I mean to that of disastrous proportions. Montana has been affected the most as excess water from rains and runoff in Rock Creek has destroyed the entire town of Red Lodge, Montana. Highway 89 south of Livingston to Gardiner has seen catastrophic results to record setting Yellowstone River flows. Roads were washed out, bridges gone, and multiple houses swept away. The north entrance to Yellowstone is closed indefinitely and the entire park is closed at this time until conditions improve. The effects will surely be felt all the way down the Missouri River to the east where flooding will continue throughout the spring as many areas seem to be getting plenty of rainfall. The power of freestone rivers (without dams) are jaw dropping and uncontrollable. Of course many of the largest rivers in the western United States have dams on them that can hold back such devastating power and harness the power of water to make electricity. After seeing everyone affected by this recent natural disaster, including people I know, I now have a new respect for hydroelectric dams and how important they are across the country. 

As the cool and wet summer continues, snowpack continues to be high and most areas in Wyoming were well over 100% for the year and Montana is not far behind. Before traveling out West do your homework on road reports and closures as many landslides and flooding has occurred that have affected smaller areas. 

The prairie is in excellent condition this year. Lots of green and lots of rain, which will make for excellent antler growth and fawn recruitment unless something else crazy happens! Does this mean that all areas will produce bucks and bulls to their maximum potential? Probably not but this year will be as good of a year as any after coming off a mild winter and wet spring to produce some excellent animals in 2022. It’s hard to predict if the summer will be hot and dry for us here but I do know there is a lot of snow in the high country still so I expect things to be green and lush well into August and September in the high country with a lower fire danger than we’ve seen in years passed.

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  1. Snake R and its tributaries no longer have very many salmon or steelhead to fish for because of the dams, be careful for what you wish for.

    Sorry to hear about the folks that are stranded or worse loss of homes.

  2. Yup its GNARLEY over there! Ive been getting text and phone updates from my brother who lives in Clyde Park. They are going to be chopper lifting stranded out of Yellowstone and getting trapped tourists air lifted out to Livingston Airport where my brother and his school bus crews will be bussing them to Helena to fly out.

  3. We have the Columbia river which has lots of dams that control river flows and lots of clean and I want to emphasize, clean energy. The real problem about our lack of salmon and steelhead is the killnets. I will admit the one problem is the baby fish going downstream,…..

    • Great points. I also want to point out that Game and Fish also estimate that there is a 40% minimum mortality on salmon and steelhead because of Sea Lions.

      • I live in the Pacific NW and like our dams. Not in hurry to get rid of them but not interested in building more. If the humans hadn’t built up the river banks, eliminated all of the beaver ponds and filled in the wet lands, the flood waters would have a place to go. Our water tables would be higher also since at this point the water just runs out the “trough” to the oceans. There would most likely be a lot more salmon and no one would care about the sea lions eating a few salmon. Nature can take care of itself if the humans get out of its way.
        Oh, and if we hadn’t made it illegal to hunt sea lions, we could help resolve that problem a bit too.

    • Salmon on the Columbia have 4 dams to go over, those on the Snake have 8 (4 on the Columbia plus 4 more on the Snake). Salmon runs on the Columbia are sustaining themselves, those on the Snake are experiencing a long term decline. All those fish use the same ocean, swim past the same sea lions, etc. It’s not hard to see what the problem is, each dam takes a toll and eventually the toll is too great.

  4. Charlie Henke

    It’s a wild river, it doesn’t need a dam to control it. It needs to be respected as such and given the appropriate space to stay wild…

  5. Peter Righero

    Really? “Disaster In The West “? For a select few yes but that title is way misleading. No need for the shock and awe for virtually every headline

  6. I have been on a water district for about 30 years In Mex-ilfornia. Watch the fight go on. Now the state is almost out water. The Tree Huggers have brought it on themselves. The dam on the Col River are very low too.
    Now I an not for blocking rivers, but there a way to do this. Build offsite dams in area that don’t really effect the natural streams. Catch the runoff in the high time or flooding stages, and store it in those offsite dams. Then as needed in the short years for rainfall, release the water back into the rivers. It does two things. It store water for lean years and creates fishing, boating and camping areas, that is in short supply.
    We need drinking and farming waters and it will continue to get harder and harder to achieve that as the years go on.
    In Mex-ilfornia about 15+ years ago private companies set to build 6 desalination plants Only one was built. The 5 other were dropped. The cost imposed on them got to be to high. The water that was going to be supplied was all sold to the water districts at that time. The tree huggers screwed that up to the max.
    Mex-ilfornia has stopped most water projects over the pass 30 years. If any were built, it took 30+ years in court to get it done.
    Bottom line is people need to pull their head out of the mud, and look around.
    M.A. Matteson

  7. john meinders

    You say…. ” water from rains and runoff in Rock Creek has destroyed the entire town of Red Lodge, Montana.”
    No, the entire town of Red Lodge was not destroyed, far from it. Some homes were destroyed and many homes and businesses suffered water damage, but your claim that the entire town was destroyed is completely false. Maybe you should get the facts before you make a comment like that.

  8. Leave what freestone rivers we have left in the West alone, What is occurring today in the Yellowstone river drainage is a natural event that has occurred periodically for 1000s of years. Rain on snow events happen. The problem is, like wildland fires burning into the wildland-urban interface, that we as individuals and those that have governess of lands along these drainages do not take into account and allow for the for the fact that mother nature bats last…whether its from fire or flood. Situations like what is occurring today up here in Montana are not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.”
    I’m no tree hugger so hear this, dams are not the answer to untoward development along what few historic/geologic freestone river channels we have left. Appropriate and sensible planning for these events, land use practices along these rivers, infrastructure investments, and the courage to say “no, not there” by county planning boards and commissions to some development proposals is what is necessary. The easy answer is to say build a dam, but have they held back the waters of the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Ohio, the Sacramento and near my home the Bitterroot and the lower Flathead from periodic flooding? No.
    River drainages are complex ecological and geologic systems that deserve respect and the same amount of complexity from us humans in designing better ways to to live and thrive within them.

  9. I didn’t say build a dam on the river. I said build it off site. Set to received the overflow in times of flooding or high water. it doesn’t have to interfere with the river except at point of entrance and exit. That can be manage. People run around with there cut off, and don’t read or think about. Today we have more people that creates more run off, and areas are trying to take care of it by setting up holding ponds to slow down the runoff. Do it in larger scale and make is work out for all. Farsighted look has to come into play. Long term planning is a must. Or stick your head in the mud and wonder what happen down the road.

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