Flynn-Lowney Ditch Acquisition & Restoration Project

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Ducks swimming in ditch water next to culvert that runs under Reserve St. at Mullan Rd.

UPDATE—November 1, 2021

The City of Missoula has completed acquisition of the Flynn-Lowney ditch from the Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company. This acquisition was made possible through the generous contributions of our partners at Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Trout Unlimited, the Clark Fork Coalition, and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency in the form of grants and private donations, as well as direct cost savings from the Mullan BUILD Project and City of Missoula Water Utility Development funds for the benefit of future water production wells.

Through this acquisition, the City acquired all water rights and easements associated with the ditch. The City intends to decommission the ditch and transfer water rights to wells for future irrigation. Unused water rights will be transferred back to instream flow in the Clark Fork River. Future projects will remove the diversion structure upstream of Broadway Island, restore the river channel, and protect the river bank and boat ramp from erosion along Silver Park. The ditch easements will remain in place until they are formally released by the City. The City intends to hold these easements for the purpose of conveying water, which may include carrying stormwater from adjacent roads or developments in the future. Landowners who are interested in filling in ditches or repurposing the land for other uses are encouraged to contact the City at publicworks@ci.missoula.mt.us or 406-552-6769.



Project Description

Public Works & Mobility Department would like to purchase the rights to the Flynn-Lowney Ditch. Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company (HVIC) currently owns and manages the Flynn-Lowney Ditch. The proposed acquisition was developed during the City of Missoula’s Mullan BUILD project, which includes a series of infrastructure improvements in the west portion of the City. Instead of installing costly ditch culverts, upgrades, and other features for the project, the City offered to buy HVIC's assets, which is basically the ditch and related water rights.


UPDATE—October 4, 2021

Missoula City Council approved the ditch purchase during its regular meeting on October 4, 2021, and authorized the Mayor to sign the purchase agreement with HVIC. The City will continue to move forward in finalizing the purchase.


UPDATE—September 27, 2021

On September 16, 2021, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency Board voted to approve funding for the remaining $57,576 needed to purchase the ditch and related water rights. The Public Works & Mobility Department will now request that the Missoula City Council Public Works Committee approve and authorize the Mayor to sign the purchase agreement between the Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company and the City of Missoula. This meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at 11:15 a.m. These meetings are being held via Zoom, and the public is invited to participate by following the instructions provided in the Citizen Participation Guide.


Funding Update—August 12, 2021

Thank you to the Clark For Coalition for a generous $80,000 donation to this project! The private foundation grant gets us closer to our project funding goal. Please see the Cost and Funding Summary section below for an update on our fundraising efforts.



The City intends to

  • acquire the ditch,
  • contribute funds to HVIC to drill wells for the remaining active irrigators,
  • transfer portions of the water rights to those wells,
  • transfer the remaining water rights to instream flows in the Clark Fork, and
  • take the ditch system out of service.


Benefits of Removing Ditch Diversion

Keeps fish in the river

  • Native trout and other species become trapped in the ditch and perish when the ditch is closed down in the fall. There are likely thousands of fish trapped in the ditch every year.
  • Enhances fishing opportunity in this heavily fished stretch of the Clark Fork River.

Increases instream river flow and water quality

  • The ditch currently diverts more than 40 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Clark Fork River. The project will result in between 20 to 30 cfs of guaranteed instream flows after portions of the water right are transferred to wells that will be drilled for active irrigators.
  • The ditch company regularly uses heavy equipment to place rock and other concrete debris in the diversion structure. Decommissioning the ditch will allow the debris to be removed and eliminate the need for future heavy equipment operation in the river.
  • Allows diverted water to remain part of the river’s instream flow, which is especially important during times of drought and low water levels.

Allows for riverbank stabilization, recreation, and restoration work

  • The irrigation diversion constricts the river and has forced the active channel to run against the south bank of the river. This has caused severe erosion of the bank, jeopardizing the River Front Trail and ultimately the professional baseball stadium, as well as the Silver Park boat ramp
  • If the ditch can be decommissioned, future projects will be able to remove the rock and other debris at the diversion structure, widen the river channel, and protect the river bank and boat ramp from erosion.

Improves irrigation in the Mullan Area

  • The ditch company has difficulty getting enough water to the active irrigators.
  • Wells will allow active irrigators access to water at all times and with minimal maintenance.

Frees up developable property

  • The ditch easements range from 30 to 50 ft wide and run for miles across developed and undeveloped properties.
  • Eliminating the ditch will benefit a number of developable properties by making land available for house lots, avoiding the costs of building pipe crossings, and simplifying storm water designs by eliminating ditch leakage to shallow aquifers.




Where is the Flynn-Lowney Ditch?

The ditch begins as an instream diversion of the Clark Fork River near the California Street pedestrian bridge and runs out Mullan Road.
















Why does HVIC want to sell the ditch?

  • The ditch company wants to sell the ditch assets and use the money to drill wells for active irrigators and to compensate other company shareholders who no longer need the water.
  • The ditch company worked cooperatively with the City because the ditch is expensive and difficult to maintain, and the company can no longer get enough water in the ditch to meet irrigators' needs.


How will the City pay for the ditch?

The City has a unique opportunity to help fund the ditch purchase with the money that would have been used to pay for culverts to pipe the ditch through the Mullan BUILD area. Missoula Water is also contributing funds to drill test wells that will lead to new water production wells on Airport property and on City property previously acquired from the Clouse Family.

The City is pursuing additional grants and other fundraising opportunities to complete the funding gap, which is currently about $155,000.


Cost and Funding Summary

Acquisition Costs
Cost to purchase HVIC$804,000
Cost to drill Airport and Clouse water test wells$100,000
Consultants
—Groundwater modeling$16,000
—Change applications & permits$42,000
Ditch mitigation (problem areas only)$10,000
Contingency$18,000
Total$990,000


Committed Funding Sources
BUILD Grant savings$625,000
Missoula Water test wells$100,000
Clark Fork Coalition$80,000
Trout Unlimited$45,000
Future Fisheries Grant (expected early fall)$50,000
Clark Fork Coalition (in-kind services for water rights applications)$30,000
Missoula Redevelopment Agency$57,576
Total—Fully Funded$987,576



If the City is not able to raise the funds needed to purchase the ditch

  • The City will use BUILD grant funds to install culverts in the Mullan BUILD area instead of closing the ditch.
  • Land that would be available for future development will remain a ditch with all the legal requirements associated with the ditch structure.
  • The City will still work on shoring up the riverbank on the south side of the Clark Fork River adjacent to the baseball stadium but will need to seek other remedies for the eroding forces worsened by the ditch diversion structure.

How can I donate to the project?

Private donations specifically for the ditch acquisition can be sent to Montana Trout Unlimited via project manager Rob Roberts (406-540-2944). If any funds are raised that exceed what is needed to purchase the ditch, those funds will be dedicated to the river restoration phase of the project.


For more information, please visit our project page.

UPDATE—November 1, 2021

The City of Missoula has completed acquisition of the Flynn-Lowney ditch from the Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company. This acquisition was made possible through the generous contributions of our partners at Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Trout Unlimited, the Clark Fork Coalition, and the Missoula Redevelopment Agency in the form of grants and private donations, as well as direct cost savings from the Mullan BUILD Project and City of Missoula Water Utility Development funds for the benefit of future water production wells.

Through this acquisition, the City acquired all water rights and easements associated with the ditch. The City intends to decommission the ditch and transfer water rights to wells for future irrigation. Unused water rights will be transferred back to instream flow in the Clark Fork River. Future projects will remove the diversion structure upstream of Broadway Island, restore the river channel, and protect the river bank and boat ramp from erosion along Silver Park. The ditch easements will remain in place until they are formally released by the City. The City intends to hold these easements for the purpose of conveying water, which may include carrying stormwater from adjacent roads or developments in the future. Landowners who are interested in filling in ditches or repurposing the land for other uses are encouraged to contact the City at publicworks@ci.missoula.mt.us or 406-552-6769.



Project Description

Public Works & Mobility Department would like to purchase the rights to the Flynn-Lowney Ditch. Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company (HVIC) currently owns and manages the Flynn-Lowney Ditch. The proposed acquisition was developed during the City of Missoula’s Mullan BUILD project, which includes a series of infrastructure improvements in the west portion of the City. Instead of installing costly ditch culverts, upgrades, and other features for the project, the City offered to buy HVIC's assets, which is basically the ditch and related water rights.


UPDATE—October 4, 2021

Missoula City Council approved the ditch purchase during its regular meeting on October 4, 2021, and authorized the Mayor to sign the purchase agreement with HVIC. The City will continue to move forward in finalizing the purchase.


UPDATE—September 27, 2021

On September 16, 2021, the Missoula Redevelopment Agency Board voted to approve funding for the remaining $57,576 needed to purchase the ditch and related water rights. The Public Works & Mobility Department will now request that the Missoula City Council Public Works Committee approve and authorize the Mayor to sign the purchase agreement between the Hellgate Valley Irrigation Company and the City of Missoula. This meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 29, 2021, at 11:15 a.m. These meetings are being held via Zoom, and the public is invited to participate by following the instructions provided in the Citizen Participation Guide.


Funding Update—August 12, 2021

Thank you to the Clark For Coalition for a generous $80,000 donation to this project! The private foundation grant gets us closer to our project funding goal. Please see the Cost and Funding Summary section below for an update on our fundraising efforts.



The City intends to

  • acquire the ditch,
  • contribute funds to HVIC to drill wells for the remaining active irrigators,
  • transfer portions of the water rights to those wells,
  • transfer the remaining water rights to instream flows in the Clark Fork, and
  • take the ditch system out of service.


Benefits of Removing Ditch Diversion

Keeps fish in the river

  • Native trout and other species become trapped in the ditch and perish when the ditch is closed down in the fall. There are likely thousands of fish trapped in the ditch every year.
  • Enhances fishing opportunity in this heavily fished stretch of the Clark Fork River.

Increases instream river flow and water quality

  • The ditch currently diverts more than 40 cubic feet per second (cfs) from the Clark Fork River. The project will result in between 20 to 30 cfs of guaranteed instream flows after portions of the water right are transferred to wells that will be drilled for active irrigators.
  • The ditch company regularly uses heavy equipment to place rock and other concrete debris in the diversion structure. Decommissioning the ditch will allow the debris to be removed and eliminate the need for future heavy equipment operation in the river.
  • Allows diverted water to remain part of the river’s instream flow, which is especially important during times of drought and low water levels.

Allows for riverbank stabilization, recreation, and restoration work

  • The irrigation diversion constricts the river and has forced the active channel to run against the south bank of the river. This has caused severe erosion of the bank, jeopardizing the River Front Trail and ultimately the professional baseball stadium, as well as the Silver Park boat ramp
  • If the ditch can be decommissioned, future projects will be able to remove the rock and other debris at the diversion structure, widen the river channel, and protect the river bank and boat ramp from erosion.

Improves irrigation in the Mullan Area

  • The ditch company has difficulty getting enough water to the active irrigators.
  • Wells will allow active irrigators access to water at all times and with minimal maintenance.

Frees up developable property

  • The ditch easements range from 30 to 50 ft wide and run for miles across developed and undeveloped properties.
  • Eliminating the ditch will benefit a number of developable properties by making land available for house lots, avoiding the costs of building pipe crossings, and simplifying storm water designs by eliminating ditch leakage to shallow aquifers.




Where is the Flynn-Lowney Ditch?

The ditch begins as an instream diversion of the Clark Fork River near the California Street pedestrian bridge and runs out Mullan Road.
















Why does HVIC want to sell the ditch?

  • The ditch company wants to sell the ditch assets and use the money to drill wells for active irrigators and to compensate other company shareholders who no longer need the water.
  • The ditch company worked cooperatively with the City because the ditch is expensive and difficult to maintain, and the company can no longer get enough water in the ditch to meet irrigators' needs.


How will the City pay for the ditch?

The City has a unique opportunity to help fund the ditch purchase with the money that would have been used to pay for culverts to pipe the ditch through the Mullan BUILD area. Missoula Water is also contributing funds to drill test wells that will lead to new water production wells on Airport property and on City property previously acquired from the Clouse Family.

The City is pursuing additional grants and other fundraising opportunities to complete the funding gap, which is currently about $155,000.


Cost and Funding Summary

Acquisition Costs
Cost to purchase HVIC$804,000
Cost to drill Airport and Clouse water test wells$100,000
Consultants
—Groundwater modeling$16,000
—Change applications & permits$42,000
Ditch mitigation (problem areas only)$10,000
Contingency$18,000
Total$990,000


Committed Funding Sources
BUILD Grant savings$625,000
Missoula Water test wells$100,000
Clark Fork Coalition$80,000
Trout Unlimited$45,000
Future Fisheries Grant (expected early fall)$50,000
Clark Fork Coalition (in-kind services for water rights applications)$30,000
Missoula Redevelopment Agency$57,576
Total—Fully Funded$987,576



If the City is not able to raise the funds needed to purchase the ditch

  • The City will use BUILD grant funds to install culverts in the Mullan BUILD area instead of closing the ditch.
  • Land that would be available for future development will remain a ditch with all the legal requirements associated with the ditch structure.
  • The City will still work on shoring up the riverbank on the south side of the Clark Fork River adjacent to the baseball stadium but will need to seek other remedies for the eroding forces worsened by the ditch diversion structure.

How can I donate to the project?

Private donations specifically for the ditch acquisition can be sent to Montana Trout Unlimited via project manager Rob Roberts (406-540-2944). If any funds are raised that exceed what is needed to purchase the ditch, those funds will be dedicated to the river restoration phase of the project.


For more information, please visit our project page.

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Page last updated: 01 November 2021, 16:47