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Volunteers invited to help map stormwater, protect lake

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POLSON – When it rains in downtown Polson, the water moves over farmland, streets and rooftops, and much of it eventually ends up in Flathead Lake. The Flathead Basin Commission wants to know how that water moves through the city’s stormwater system, and they’re looking to locals for help.

On Aug. 20, volunteers can work alongside scientists to identify the city of Polson’s stormwater infrastructure. 

The FBC will use that information to build a map of the system. That map is key to protecting Flathead Lake from pollution. 

Dumping pollutants into the lake isn’t the only way it can become dirty. Stormwater can pick up pollutants or debris that could contaminate the lake. Oil and grease that leak out of a broken car or excess fertilizer on farm fields don’t just stay in place. When it rains, they get swept up in stormwater and could end up polluting the lake.

Emilie Henry, Big Sky Watershed Corps member for the FBC, said she decided to organize the event after she realized that there’s not a lot of existing information about the city’s stormwater system. Determining where the water goes and how it makes its way into the lake will allow the FBC to identify sources of pollution in stormwater and make plans to keep pollutants out of the lake. Henry said the event is open to everyone who is interested in volunteering. 

“Anyone who is interested in keeping pollutants out of Flathead Lake should come,” Henry said. 

The event is an opportunity to get out of the house during the COVID-19 pandemic, but organizers will be implementing guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus. Everyone who attends will be required to wear a mask. Gloves will be provided. All communal equipment will be sanitized between uses. Group sizes will be small with two to three volunteers in each group.

Those who participate will use tape measures and compasses and will be accompanied by a trained scientist who will provide specific instructions for the activity. Children under 18 must be accompanied by an adult. 

Aside from helping collect useful data, volunteers will learn about the importance of preventing contaminants from moving from the land into the lake. “We want to make sure we’re keeping Flathead Lake as clean as possible,” said Henry. “It’s so important culturally, economically, environmentally and ecologically.”

The event will be split into two sessions, from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 20. Those who wish to register for the event can do so at arcg.is/1Pf8KH. Contact Henry at 406-249-2241 for more information.

 

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