MISSOULA -- It's been a big week at the Rattlesnake Dam project site. On Monday, crews finished removing the actual dam barrier and are now working to remove the remaining structures that surround the area.
Removing the dam will allow a natural river connection to exist between the Rattlesnake Wilderness and the Clark Fork River, for the first time in over 100 years.
There will be 1,000-feet of stream channel restoration, five acres of wetland and floodplain creation, with the addition of new trails and kiosks.
Missoula Parks and Recreation Conservation Manager, Morgan Valliant, said this project is vital to protecting native and threatened fish species.
"We've got increased fish in our fisheries. This is a major spawning stretch for bull trout, cut throat trout and rainbow trout," Valliant said.
He said there was a lot of taxpayer dollars going into maintenance and operation costs for the dam, but by removing it, that burden will be gone. He added that only about 5% of the $1.37 million dollar removal project will be through taxes.
"Over 90% of the funding for this multi-million dollar project is all donations [and] grants that we've worked to get."
Missoulians are encouraged to visit the Rattlesnake Dam Overlook by taking a short walk or bike on the Rattlesnake Greenway. Valliant says until this was built, many people didn't even know the dam was here."
"So many people that have lived here for decades have just been like 'I didn't even know that was down there,'" Valliant said.
He said by the end of next week, crews will have removed all man-made structures from the site. Then, they'll start the process of restoring habitat around the area. By next spring, Missoulians can expect to see new trail networks being built on the west side of the creek.
As crews continue with the removal, they are making sure to preserve historic materials so that they can be used in the informational kiosks that will be placed near the site.