FWP secures federal funds for new state park, proposes erosion mitigation strategies

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The two U.S. senators from Montana announced this week that a grant of more than $ 1.3 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) will be made to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks to help create a new state park. along the north shore of Flathead Lake.

Last December, the Montana Land Board approved the state’s proposal to acquire a half-mile, 106-acre sandy expanse along the lake’s north shore to codify access to the popular recreation site. and permanently conserve wildlife habitat and create a new state park.

In April, the proposal received the nod from the state legislature, with HB 5 giving FWP the power to acquire the property from the Sliter family for around $ 3 million.

“People from all over the world come to western Montana to enjoy our unique landscapes, and this is great news for our economy and for anyone who cares about our public lands,” said Senator Jon Tester D -Mont., In a press release. “I look forward to continuing our work to ensure that these lands – and the outdoor recreation economy that depend on it – will remain open to the public for generations to come. “

Tester, along with Senator Steve Daines R-Mont., Were instrumental in securing full and permanent funding for the LWCF under the Great American Outdoors Act which was enacted in 2020. The LWCF , first created by Congress in 1964, is funded by offshore oil and gas royalties rather than taxpayer dollars and provides hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to protect public lands and increase access to outdoor recreation.

“This is great news and all thanks to the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act,” Daines said in a press release. “Now more Montanais and visitors will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of Flathead Lake and Montana.”

In addition to the LWCF grant, the Sliter family will donate up to $ 125,000 in a fundraising campaign with the Montana State Parks Foundation to help cover daily operations and long-term maintenance.

On October 7, the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board will discuss a capital improvement project for the recently acquired Somers Beach State Park.

Decades of operating the dams to maintain pool water levels have resulted in constant shoreline loss due to erosion along the new park’s lakefront, according to the projects backgrounder.

The council proposes to create a 6,000-foot-long 3D dynamic gravel beach system to stop the loss of the existing shoreline and provide a natural transition from the shoreline to the fringing wetland, as well as create a more usable shoreline for visitors. during the full pool.

3D dynamic range uses washed rocks and large woody debris to absorb wave action and mitigate erosion. Similar erosion control methods have been used with success along other parts of Flathead Lake, including Finley Point.

Public participation will be sought when an environmental assessment is published pending Board approval of the proposal, which is estimated to cost $ 565,000.

Flathead Lake currently has only 13 public access sites along approximately 185 miles of shoreline, 89% of which (excluding islands) are long stretches of private land.

The Somers Beach site will be the seventh unit of Flathead Lake State Park, joining Wayfarers, Yellow Bay and Finley Point on the east side of the lake, and West Shore, Big Arm and Wild Horse Island on the west side.

Last year, FWP reported total attendance among six units approaching half a million, and in the first half of 2021, the parks attracted around 147,003 visitors, making it the third most visited park in the state. .


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