Missoula river ditch deal saves fish, roadwork

Rob Chaney

The Clark Fork River gets to keep some extra water and construction crews get a simpler landscape now that the city of Missoula has bought the Flynn-Lowney irrigation ditch.

The $990,000 deal closed on Nov. 1. The city paid $725,000, with the balance raised through grants, private donations and in-kind services from partners, including the Clark Fork Coalition, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Trout Unlimited, Missoula Redevelopment Agency, Missoula Montana Airport and Hellgate Valley Irrigation Co. shareholders.

The ditch, which starts by Broadway Island and runs toward Mullan Road and Missoula Montana Airport, can pull 40 cubic feet of water per second out of the river. But Hellgate Valley Irrigation has faced increasing maintenance problems and would prefer using well water for its remaining agricultural clients.

Meanwhile, the ditch complicates engineering efforts to redevelop those farm fields in the Mullan BUILD project west of the North Reserve Street business district. Several large culverts needed for road construction in the area would have cost about $650,000.

“That project is the backbone for utility and road infrastructure to support development in that area,” Missoula Public Works and Mobility Director Jeremy Keene said on Wednesday. “We shut off the ditch

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