Tin Cup Creek - Dam Restoration

Aug 23, 2012

Tin Cup Creek originates high in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area in western Montana. The creek often goes dry by late summer because more water is allocated to landowners than the creek can provide. The Clark Fork Coalition is working hand-in-hand with water users on creative ways to keep the creek running wet for fish. As part of their work on Tin Cup Creek, they keep track of water levels and stream temperature to be sure that there is enough clean, cool water for fish to survive.

The upper 10 miles of Tin Cup Creek is located in the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and offers great fisheries habitat, while the lower 4.5 miles is listed as chronically dewatered by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Dewatering through this reach is due to over-allocation of water rights, which allows irrigation diversions to divert more water than the stream can supply.

Crews completed refurbishing the 106-year-old dam in November 2011. The dam was resurfaced and a concrete spillway and headgate were installed. The project brought the dam up to safety standards, and allows irrigators along with the Tin Cup Water and Sewer District to capture needed water, while the Clark Fork Coalition holds a water right for in-stream flows to maintain stream health. The hard work and collaboration between the groups have led to a balance of human needs and ecological health.

EcoFlight flew members of Clark Fork Coalition and the Tin Cup Water/Sewer District for an aerial view of Tin Cup Lake.