Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) proposes to fund Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) to remove a northern pike (Esox lucius) population in Bass Lake and Mud Creek in northwest Montana by applying the piscicide (pesticide poisonous to fish) rotenone and restocking the lake with native westslope cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii lewisii). Northern pike are voracious predatory fish that eat native salmonids, including westslope cutthroat trout, which has detrimental effects on native fish populations. The removal of northern pike would help restore native fish populations in the Tobacco River and Lake Koocanusa, which Bass Lake and Mud Creek feed. The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) is proposing to fund the Bass Lake Restoration Project.
To understand the potential environmental impacts of this proposal, MFWP and BPA prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA). Two alternatives are studied in the EA: to remove the northern pike population or not. The EA describes anticipated impacts to natural and human resources.
In compliance with the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a draft environmental assessment (EA) was prepared and circulated for public comment from August 9 through October 9, 2012. Notices were advertised in three local newspapers (Daily Inter Lake, Tobacco Valley, and Western News), a news release was done, and notification was mailed to local conservation groups, timber companies, selected businesses, natural resource agencies, and local landowners. Copies of the EA were made available at three local libraries, the state library in Helena, the MFWP Region 1 headquarters in Kalispell, and the MFWP internet web site. In addition to the EA, MFWP invited local landowners surrounding Bass Lake to a public meeting to exchange information and gather input. The comments and MFWP's responses are included in the Public Comment section of this document below.
Based on the comments received during the public comment period for the draft environmental assessment,
and on landowner meetings, MFWP has completed the final environmental assessment for the proposed actions. No changes were made to the draft environmental assessment; therefore, the draft will become the final assessment document. MFWP had proposed to use rotenone to remove unwanted pike as a preferred alternative action. However, during the public comment process, several landowners living near Bass Lake did not support the project and expressed concerns about the human health risk of rotenone associated with the preferred alternative. They also questioned whether Bass Lake pike were entering Tobacco River/Lake Koocanusa and whether other removal methods would eliminate northern pike.
Although MFWP considers rotenone use, with exposure minimization measures, to be safe and effective, MFWP acknowledges the public's concerns and therefore I recommend that MFWP does not implement plans to chemically remove northern pike from Mud Creek and Bass Lake at this time. Instead MFWP will explore alternative methods to remove northern pike, including electrofishing and use of traps or nets. MFWP will study the feasibility of non-chemical methods, continue outreach to landowners regarding the risks and benefits of rotenone use, and develop a long-term management strategy for Bass Lake northern pike. Before the implementation of any pike removal method, MFWP and BPA will conduct further environmental review and public involvement as appropriate.
For further information on this project, please contact:
Kurt Unger, Environmental Specialist
Bonneville Power Administration - KEC-4
P.O. Box 3621, Portland, OR 97208-3621
Direct phone 503-230-5885; Toll-free 1-800-282-3713
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
385 Fish Hatchery Road, Libby, MT 59923
Public Comments (35Kb pdf) (12/17/12)
Bass Lake EA (670Kb pdf) (08/09/12)
MFWP Project Vicinity Map (1.1MB pdf) (07/19/12)