Trout numbers continue to decline; new style of banks adopted for next phase of upper Clark Fork remedy

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Beau Downing, restoration coordinator with the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program, stands on a contaminated slicken on the bank of the Clark Fork River near Warm Springs, where dead fish were discovered in September 2019 after a fall rainstorm. 

Meagan Thompson, The Montana Standard MICHAEL CAST

The upper Clark Fork River cleanup enters a new phase this spring with remediation of a section between Warm Springs and Galen known as Phase 3.

As the Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Montana National Resource Damage Program prepare to start construction mid-May, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks biologists are dealing with a question central to the economic value and health of the river — why has the brown trout population reached all-time lows in the last several years?

There is widespread concern that loss of sheltered banks from remediation is a factor.

“Basically what we’re seeing is that brown trout numbers are down throughout the entire river in both remediated and unmediated sections,” FWP fish biologist Nathan Cook said Wednesday during a Zoom presentation of

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