Small project, big benefits

Shoreline stabilization, accessibility improvements proposed for reservoir
By 
Katherine Sears
Reporter
Tuesday, March 30, 2021
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Artificial habitat structures will be placed along the eastern shoreline of Big Casino Creek Reservoir to the existing pier, pictured here.
Photo by Katherine Sears

A proposed project at Big Casino Creek Reservoir near Lewistown aims to restore the shoreline, improve accessibility and aid in habitat improvements.
Fisheries Biologist Clint Smith said he hopes the project will improve species diversity, provide more opportunity for anglers and possibly increase angling activity at the site.
“It’s (Big Casino Creek Reservoir) not the first thing that comes to mind when fishing local reservoirs,” said Smith, “We know that.”
The Environmental Assessment for the project states Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as well as local angling groups, have identified a need to help stabilize the shoreline to improve access for anglers and create better habitat for several species of fish, including largemouth bass, yellow perch, black crappie and tiger muskie.
The reservoir was created in the 1970s to help mitigate flooding in Lewistown. The reservoir covers approximately 17 surface acres and is 15 feet at its deepest point. The reservoir became a fishing access site in the mid 1990s, which also included the construction of a pier, bathroom and picnic shelters. The site has undergone minimal improvements since then.

“In 2014, we did install some artificial habitat structures with the help of the local high school, but they haven’t performed like I thought they would,” said Smith.
The proposed project would include adding different types of artificial and natural structures throughout the main shoreline to the existing pier to the south.
“They’re different,” Smith explained of the new structures. “We’re using a combination of natural and artificial features and proposing three or four different types of structures – they have more diversity and complexity to them.”
According to the EA, the addition of the habitat structures are expected to make fish more available to anglers, drawing them to near-shore areas where they may be more susceptible to angling.
The project also proposes the installation of a 32-foot long floating wooden dock to improve fishing access for anglers, as much of the existing habitat is limited to deep water that is inaccessible from the shore. The dock structures were salvaged from the Montana Fishing Access Site program and will also host some habitat structures.
“With the dock, we hope to put some attached structures to the underside as well so people can hopefully catch fish right there on the dock,” said Smith.
The third component of the project has a two-fold effect – help restore the integrity of the bank and create more habitat. This goal would be accomplished with the installation of stone-framed deflectors along approximately 100 feet of the main shoreline. The area will be framed in large rocks and filled with smaller rock, which will help dissipate wave energy that has been contributing to the erosion.
“In addition to the shoreline stabilization, the deflectors would improve angler access by providing convenient, flat areas at the water’s edge to recreate from,” the EA states.
FWP also plans to re-contour and vegetate that bank area to prevent further erosion.
The project would be completed within a week of commencement, occurring in the summer or fall of this year. The total cost of the project would be approximately $14,000 with funding coming from grants, FAS program funds and FWP Region 4 Fisheries program.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is seeking public comment on the project until April 15. Comments may be submitted electronically to clsmith@mt.gov or mailed to Montana FWP Lewistown Area Resource Office, Attn: Big Casino Access and Habitat Comments, 333 Airport Road, Ste. 1, Lewistown, Montana 59457.

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