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MT and CO watershed groups receive $1.6m from EPA

Release Date: 5/2/2003
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      Helena -- EPA Administrator Christie Whitman announced nearly $15 million in grants to 20 watershed organizations selected as part of a new Watershed Initiative. Groups in Montana and Colorado received grants totalling $1 million and $600,000 respectively.

      Regional and national experts selected the winners from a highly competitive field of more than 176 nominations. The winners were chosen because they demonstrated the ability to achieve on-the-ground environmental results in a short time frame. Each of the watershed organizations exhibited strong partnerships with a wide variety of support, showed innovation and demonstrated compatibility with existing government programs.

      "The new national Watershed Initiative targets mature community-based watershed groups that have developed science-based watershed plans, established broad partnerships, and are ready to carry out projects that will measurably improve water quality," EPA Region 8 Regional Administrator Robert Roberts said. "Region 8 is proud to have two watershed groups in the Rocky Mountain region stand out among the many exemplary groups nationwide to be selected for funding."

      The Clark Fork-Pend Oreille interstate watershed is the largest watershed selected for funding, covering 26,000 square miles, encompassing the Clark Fork-Flathead Rivers Basins in Montana and Idaho's largest freshwater lake, Pend Oreille. More than 65 percent of the watershed's streams are not meeting the uses designated by states, making restoration and improvement of water quality imperative. The Flathead Basin Commission, Blackfoot Challenge, Bitterroot Partnership, and Watershed Restoration Coalition of the Upper Clark Fork have partnered with the Tri-State Water Quality Council in North Idaho to implement a set of restoration projects. The funded projects -- from dairy waste management to riparian habitat restoration -- are aimed at reducing nutrients and improving fish habitat in this Northern Rockies watershed that forms the headwaters of the Columbia River. Total EPA funding for the project will be $1 million, and the Council and its partners are matching the grant with over $1 million in nonfederal funds.

      In Colorado, last summer's Hayman Fire devastated 137,000 acres of the Upper South Platte River basin. Sediments running off fire-damaged areas into the watershed are a great concern. The watershed provides drinking water to three-fourths of Colorado's residents. EPA's Watershed Initiative will provide $600,000 to the Coalition for the Upper South Platte River to rehabilitate fire-damaged areas that are impacting water quality, and to protect and restore streams that are still relatively pristine. The Coalition has helped lead the post-Hayman recovery efforts and has an extensive network of community volunteers to help restore the watershed. Coalition partners will provide matching funds for the project.

      "The Watershed Initiative builds on the energy, commitment, in-depth knowledge of local problems and enthusiasm of citizen-driven efforts," Roberts said. "These grants will help tackle some of the nation's most challenging water quality problems -- problems such as habitat loss and alteration, nutrient enrichment, pathogens and invasive species -- which continue to harm watersheds nationwide."