The Flathead River Commission was formed in 2009 by Flathead County. Its purpose is to maintain and improve water quality within the Flathead Watershed with the following general goals and function:
- develop and implement strategies for improving water quality in the Flathead Watershed
- seek funding for projects and further education to improve water quality
- work to make stabilization and restoration more affordable and simpler
They are particularly focused on the lower 26 miles of the Flathead River between Kalispell and Flathead Lake. This area of the Flathead River is heavily influenced by water levels on Flathead Lake, as controlled by Kerr Dam. The rise and fall of lake levels creates a zone of riverbank that is unable to support riparian vegetation. The lack of vegetation makes these streambanks susceptible to erosion. The group is actively seeking solutions to problems such as erosion, riparian health and water management due to this “lake effect.”
When the group was formed, the MT Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) awarded them with a grant of state managed EPA funds designed to help realize the goals of the Clean Water Act (known as the “319 grant program”). This grant was used to do an agricultural impacts report for developing Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) values for pollutants. A model is being constructed that will quantify goals of sediment, nutrients, temperature, etc. load limits to help maintain water quality in the entire watershed.
Additional funds were awarded to do educational outreach to the agricultural community. The FRC, originally housed under Flathead County, left the county in 2011 and moved under the auspices of FCD. This will allow the group to actively seek funding for restoration work along the river. They seek to work together with permitting agencies as well as other groups to find common sense solutions that protect private property rights and balance multiple uses. Meetings are open to the public.