by Karen Dils

In mid-July 7 brave folks gathered at Ruby Mt. Springs for continued weed mitigation to increase the return flow to the river. Since we last did weed clean-up in 2021, they’ve brought in big machinery to help clean out some areas and planted 4 native cottonwoods by the ponds. They needed to remove dead tumbleweeds, watercress, and invasive weeds like giant mullein and bull thistle around the springs inflow and between the ponds. The watercress has really invaded the stream between ponds which inhibits the water flow back into the river.

It was a dirty job for many. Reed & Karen Dils, Bob Gray, Mark Zinkula (new member), and Jerry Wright did the wet work in the stream pulling plants and root balls. Keith Krebs and Richard Frey did the land work along with BT’s Tate Knight. Weather cooperated and we got an incredible amount done, but not all. Site manager, Jeremy Allenbaugh will haul it away in a trailer.

Here’s a little background on why CPCTU is involved with BT. I have been the CPC liaison with BlueTriton (BT-formerly Nestle Waters) since before they got their first permit for using the old hatchery spring water about 12 years ago when I was very skeptical about issuing them a permit. After being educated on this complicated issue, I have been the lead communicator with them. They have given the chapter financial help and we have collaborated with them on the redesign of the old fish hatchery and springs by Ruby Mt., provided fishery information, suggestions on how to use their property with the community (lessons, education, conservation easement, fishing access, road work, etc) and the need for recycling of plastics (a worldwide issue). We have provided volunteers for invasive weed clean-up at the ponds (which hold some BIG fish). Some board members have had a tour of their facility.

BlueTriton has finalized their conservation easement with CPW on the Bighorn Springs area north of their facility across from Sugarloaf Mt. near Ruby Mt. There will be a 4-vehicle parking area for Watchable Wildlife (sheep, golden eagles, etc.) and a trailhead to the river for fishing there. The lease will go upstream to just shy of the railroad bridge. Appropriate signage will be installed. They are amenable to our putting in another monotube if we think it is needed (we have one at the current parking area).

A trail is also being designed from the current parking lot west of Ruby Mt. upstream. We discussed additional improvements to the ponds area so they can be better used for education and community groups. There are already some educational signs there which I previously advised them on, and they are in the process of getting feedback for new interpretive signs.

Because the county is so slow in improving the road to Ruby Mt. (it is VERY narrow and hazardous around BlueTriton’s lower pond), BT donated 110’ on the north and 10’ on the southwest side to the county to enable a wider road and new culvert to prevent erosion. North of the road is also part of the conservation easement. Who knows when the county will start this.

At their recent meeting with the county, the county staff, attorney, and independent consultants all agreed BT was in compliance with the permit stipulations.

As for the plastic bottles issue, which nobody has a solution for yet, BT supplied water to victims of the Yellowstone area flooding (and our work crew) and is researching how they can help transport plastic bottles from our county to a recycling facility in Texas. They have been heavily involved in sustainability efforts and would like to participate in the county’s efforts (they gave them a substantial amount of money for this).

I asked if they could make a chart of how much it costs to make various water containers, e.g. plastic, aluminum, glass AND how much it costs to recycle each. It was interesting to learn it’s more expensive to recycle an aluminum can than make a “new” one. These costs include mining raw materials, energy costs to produce, labor, transportation, etc. He thought that was a good idea (he is Larry Lawrence, their natural resources liaison whom I’ve dealt with for about 4-5 years). No corporation is perfect, but they have met our chapter’s requirements.

Thanks again to our dedicated volunteers!