Bonaparte River Water Management Project

The main objective of the project was to develop a cooperative approach to water management by assessing demand and reviewing opportunities for improved water management to benefit fish, fish habitat and human use needs. Fish and aquatic values were identified within the context of water demand and supply constraints. Information was assembled for the watershed planning group that can be used to address water supply and fish and fish habitat needs identified as priorities in the watershed planning process of 2007-08. Opportunities for improved use of water supplies to help meet fish, aquatic as well as agricultural supply needs were identified and prioritized.

Over the past 9 years streambank restoration sites have been undertaken on the Bonaparte River lead by the BWSS with over 75 sites now stabilized, and landowner acceptance and willingness to participate growing. Significant areas of severe steambank erosion remain with high risk of further erosion. Streambank restoration activity is ongoing; however the communities also recognized that water supply issues need to be addressed to accomplish water sustainability goals during recent watershed planning processes. During this WFSP watershed planning process, sponsored in part by the FSWP, a series of watershed scale goals and objectives were generated (see list of 11 watershed sustainability focus areas). Water quality, water supply, fish and fish habitat have been consistently identified as dominant water related issues during the process. Some watershed issues were identified relating to groundwater extraction and minimum flows to protect fish and aquatic values. Various participants have suggested water storage improvements and development of alternative sources to help support fish stocks, secure agricultural supply, and mitigate dramatic highs and low flows that are anticipated from extensive pine bark beetle impact. An information gap regarding Bonaparte Dam function, operation and capacity were identified as blockages to progress. The project has provided information regarding trends and conditions including the Bonaparte Dam that will enable water management improvement alternatives to be addressed.