A Return to the Stone Age – Montana’s Latest Floodplain Ordinance

If you care about the protection and restoration of Montana’s streams and rivers, it’s time to let your voice be heard.

 The Montana Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) has formally implemented a plan to require the use of large, non-native rip rap and/or concrete structures for all stream restoration and bank stabilization projects in the state.  The recently released Draft 2012 Model Floodplain Ordinance clearly intends to deny the use of all “soft” approaches, like revegetation or the use of nominally-reinforced vegetation, through new requirements outlined on page 29, section 9 -12, of the draft ordinance. 

The one-line requirement listed for stream restoration and bank stablilzation projects to withstand a 100-year flood event translates to an engineering requirement for hard rip-rap or hard structure.  Although DNRC was requested to provide the state or federal law requiring stream restoration and bank stabilization projects to withstand the 100-year flood event, the agency failed to do so. 

As is the case around the nation, Montana’s freshwater resources have been significantly damaged for decades as truckload after truckload of stone and concrete rip-rap have been dumped onto the banks of some of the states most precious headwaters.  Armored floodplains cannot perform the same ecological services as healthy, well-vegetated floodplains. Healthy, well-vegetated floodplains naturally provide flood control, erosion control, and fish and wildlife habitat. 

While agencies in Montana, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Montana Department of Environmental Quality, recognize the significant damage that has been wrought historically on Montana’s resources and are working to promote sound, and soft approaches to restoration here, some at the DNRC have belligerently stood firm in blind disregard of both best science and best practice.

The draft is open for public comment until June 10, 2012 on the DNRC website http://dnrc.mt.gov/wrd/water_op/floodplain/news/draft_model_ordinance.pdf

Anyone who has an interest in the health and productivity of Montana’s waterways should provide public comment to DNRC as well as take a moment to tell Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer that his agency is condemning the future of the state’s most valuable resources.  Send a note to the Governor http://governor.mt.gov/cabinet/contactus.asp , and to Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Richard Opper http://svc.mt.gov/deq/mail/recoverycontactusform.asp , asking them to help protect Montana’s streams and rivers from hard armor.

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