Little Coyote Pond and West Fork River Restoration Project
In the early ‘70s, two in-stream ponds were constructed in the Meadow Village on the West Fork of the Gallatin River to be used primarily as sediment retention ponds due to the construction activities taking place upstream. By the early ‘90s, both the Little Coyote and Silverbow ponds were filled with sediment, and BSOA and Boyne partnered to reclaim the ponds by dredging out the sediment. Now, thirty years later, sediment has once again filled in both ponds.
The result of Little Coyote Pond silting in these past years is an over-widened streambed and a reduction in pond depth of less than five feet deep. Shallow waters increase water temperatures in the warmer months and freeze at the bottom of the pond in the winter. These degraded conditions inhibit the fish survival in the pond, obstruct fish passage and upstream spawning in the West Fork, and have greatly reduced the fish populations and upstream fishing opportunities.
ENHANCED POND AND WEST FORK FISHERIES
The Project looks to improve the negative effects that both Silverbow and Little Coyote ponds and the stream are currently having on the fisheries. The plan is to separate both Little Coyote and Silverbow ponds from the West Fork. Taking the ponds offstream will allow for a more natural transportation of sediment downstream, which is important to the river’s ecosystems. The banks of the river in both areas of the ponds will be restored and revegetated to provide habitat and shade, which will help to reduce water temperatures. Little Coyote Pond will be dredged to a depth where fish can survive over the winter freeze and special considerations will be given to encourage fish spawning. Silverbow Pond will remain as is due to limited BSOA funds to restore this pond.
These activities will not only restore and enhance the fisheries of Little Coyote Pond and West Fork River, but also improve connectivity throughout the watershed, stretching from Lake Levinsky to the confluence of Gallatin River in the canyon.
AN ENVIRONMENTAL LIFT
Wetlands play an integral role in the ecology of the watershed. Our team of experts, which include water resource engineers and riparian and wetland scientists, has incorporated features that improve the functions of the existing wetlands and floodplain. Stream banks will be revegetated with sedge, native plantings and thousands of willow cuttings, all harvested locally. These plantings will help to filter the water, as well as provide essential fish and wildlife habitat. Log structures inserted in the stream will slow the flow of water, naturally capture sediment and help improve aquatic habitat.
Better water quality and a healthier, more natural stream are just some of the environmental benefits of the Project.
A RECREATIONAL RESOURCE FOR ALL
Located near the Community Park in the center of Big Sky, BSOA’s Little Coyote and Silverbow ponds will remain open to the public to recreate, as has been the case for the past three decades. To enhance the recreational aspect of Little Coyote Pond, the Project will add beaches, picnic and fishing areas, a rock terrace, and other amenities. Easy access will include an adjacent parking area as well as trails, which will be ADA-compliant and provide handicap accessibility to the pond.
In our fast-growing community where development continues, the Little Coyote Pond and West Fork River Restoration Project aims to protect our environment and be a place to take in the natural beauty of the area, where the community can gather and play, and our youth can learn to fish for years to come.
Over the past two years, the BSOA has been communicating and collaborating with local officials and community organizations in an effort to implement an emergency egress for Big Sky, as well as an evacuation plan in case of an emergency. During this time some progress has been made, however, due to the importance of emergency preparedness for the Big Sky community, the Board has decided to elevate the issue to the Governor’s Office.