This Saturday, August 24th, the Sun River Watershed Group (SRWG) will celebrate the organization’s  25th year of working to protect the area’s waters.

25th

The SRWG started in 1994 as a task force to save Muddy Creek.

The group covers a wide area since the Sun River Watershed encompasses about 1,500,000 acres across three counties - Teton, Cascade and Lewis and Clark.

SRWG recently hired Tracy Wendt as coordinator.

Tracy told the Sun Times in an interview that SRWG receives funds through grants, as well as from local, state, and federal agencies, groups, and individuals.

Sun River Watershed Group works closely with irrigation and conservation districts, as well as private ditch companies and other water and land managers.

Standing at the river’s edge at the Largent FWP Fishing Access site near Vaughn, one of the original team that got the SRWG started, Alan Rollo, spoke to the Sun Times about work the SRWG undertook to clean up the area and improve the river.

Years ago, barrels of chemicals had been buried near the river. SRWG worked with the state to clean up the waste, then SRWG cleaned up the river and restored the proper flow.

Now, the riverbanks are green and the river flows clear over a bed of clean gravel. While waiting for Alan to arrive, a fellow walked past toting a bag of freshly caught fish as a testament to the waters there.

The SWRG is a member of the Montana Watershed Coordination Council and works with the Montana Salinity Control District.

Tracy Wendt told the Sun Times that in some areas, such as Freezeout Lake in Teton County, salinity is an issue.

In Cascade County, the top issue that SRWG keeps tabs on are weeds and water control and erosion.

In Lewis and Clark County, the primary concern is weeds and flooding.

Rollo is now retired from SRWG. He worked for the organization after retiring from 25 years in the Air Force.

Erling Juel, Greenfields Irrigation District Manager, currently serves as SRWG Board Chairperson.

Tracy told the Sun Times that there are two events planned this Saturday for the 25th Anniversary.

At 9:00 a.m., a tour will leave on a bus from Fairfield School.

The will make four or five stops, depending on time, between Power and Simms.

Guest speakers include Al Rollo, original Sun River Watershed Coordinator; Erling Juel, Greenfields Irrigation District; Adam Sigler, Montana State University Extension Water Quality Department; Chris Ellison, USGS; Mark Ockey, MT DEQ; and a representative from Montana FWP Region 4. Topics include the history of SRWG, watershed-wide issues and SRWG’s efforts to deal with those issues, water quality and flow monitoring, channel migration, riparian buffers and grazing management, and fish habitat.To RSVP, email info@sunriverwatershed.org or call (406) 214-2868 and speak with Tracy Wendt.

Beginning at 5 pm Saturday evening, SRWG will host a celebration event at Sun Canyon Lodge. There will be a BBQ, silent auction, yard games, and live music from the Trent Brooks Band. Tickets are $20 (kids 12 and under are free) and include a dinner and drink ticket. Tickets can be purchased at Greenfields Irrigation District and Montana Valley Irrigation. Tent camping is free, courtesy of Sun Canyon Lodge, and reservations for cabins and RV sites should be made directly through Sun Canyon Lodge. SRWG is still accepting silent auction items for this event. To donate or for more information, contact sunriverwatershed@gmail.com.

“We are really excited to celebrate 25 years of successes and to kick off our next quarter century!” said SRWG coordinator, Tracy Wendt. “We hope people will come for the tour or to the Lodge or to both and really enjoy the Sun River watershed that we work so hard to protect and restore. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”