Bank stabilization: Water forum helps Rye Creek landowners with erosion problem

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DARBY – Two years ago, a landowner living just off Rye Creek stopped by the offices of the Bitter Root Water Forum looking for help.

Each spring, he had seen a little bit of his property wash away as the swollen creek cut deep into a steep bank.

“He wasn’t really sure what to do or how to stop it,” remembers Heather Mullee Barber, the water forum’s executive director. “We knew it could be a touchy situation because some erosion is just part of the natural process.”

Barber also knew that Rye Creek is struggling to find its way.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has identified the creek as one of 38 streams in the Bitterroot watershed considered to be impaired. By definition, an impaired stream doesn’t meet the state’s water quality standards because of excessive pollutants, which can include sediment, nutrients or metals.

The sediment issues in Rye Creek comes from a variety of sources, including naturally occurring erosive soils in areas that were either heavily logged or burned intensively in the wildfires of 2000.

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