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Judith Mountains TMDL Project

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Judith Mountains TMDL Project Documents 


Judith Mountains Project Page Contents:



Project Purpose


The state of Montana monitors its waters and conducts water quality assessments to determine if waterbodies are supporting their designated uses. Waterbodies in the state of Montana have been classified to designate what beneficial uses they must support. All waterbodies in the Judith Mountains TMDL Project area must be maintained suitable to support the uses of: agricultural, industrial, recreational, and drinking water uses, as well as support of fish and aquatic life. Waters that are determined not to be supporting their designated uses are called impaired and are placed on Montana’s list of impaired waters. Impaired waterbodies and their associated probable causes and sources of impairment are published within Montana’s biennial Water Quality Integrated Report. Impaired waterbodies for this project are discussed below, in the next section. 

 Montana’s state law, and the federal Clean Water Act that was established by Congress in 1972, require development of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for all waterbodies impaired by a pollutant (e.g., metals, nutrients, sediment, temperature). A TMDL is the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards (think of a TMDL as a loading rate). TMDL development includes four main steps:


  • Further characterizing the impaired waterbody’s existing water quality conditions and comparing those conditions to Montana’s water quality standards. During this step, measurable target values are set to help evaluate the stream’s condition in relation to the applicable water quality standards.
  • Quantifying the magnitude of the pollutant contribution from each significant source
  • Determining the total allowable load of the pollutant to the waterbody (i.e., the TMDL)
  • Allocating the total allowable pollutant load into individual loads for each significant source (referred to as load allocations for nonpoint sources and wasteload allocations for point sources)


A TMDL document was published for this project in 2013 that includes information and results from each of these four steps. The document also includes recommended land management activities for improving water quality in this project area, and a monitoring strategy to evaluate progress toward attainment of water quality standards (see Sections 9 and 10 of the document). The "Judith Mountains Project Area TMDLs and Framework Water Quality Improvement Plan" can be found on DEQ's Final TMDL Documents website in the list of Lower Missouri River Basin documents.


For more information about the development of TMDLs, please see the What is a TMDL? page on this site or download our pamphlet: Understanding the TMDL Process (580 kb).


Project Overview


The Judith Mountains TMDL Project Area is located in central Montana approximately 9 miles northeast of Lewistown (Figure 1 below), and it spans portions of Fergus, Blaine and Phillips counties. The total extent is 920,561 acres, or approximately 1,438 square miles. The project area is bounded by Fort Belknap Reservation to the northeast and drainage divides to the east and west; it includes three impaired streams that originate in the Judith Mountains and drain east into the Mussellshell River (Chicago Gulch, Chippewa Creek and Collar Gulch) and three other impaired streams that are within the Missouri River watershed (Armells Creek, Fargo Coulee, and Cow Creek) (Figure 2).


The Montana Department of Environmental Quality identified six streams for impairment by a combination of sediment, nutrient, and metals (Figure 2). For more information on each stream’s probable impairment causes and sources, see DEQ’s Clean Water Act Information Center. Click on "Search," choose the "By Location" tab, and then select either "Flatwillow-Box Elder" (for Musselshell Watershed streams) or “Fort Peck Area Tributaries” (for Missouri Watershed streams) in the TMDL Planning Area (TPA) drop down list.


 The U.S. Environmental Project Agency worked with DEQ to complete the necessary TMDLs in the project area in 2013. To assist with TMDL development, EPA collected water quality data on the impaired streams in 2010 and 2011. That data, along with other water quality data from the prior 10 years were used to evaluate the level of impairment for each stream, to identify probable sources of impairment, and for TMDL development.


Figure 1: Location of the Judith Mountains TMDL Project Area

[click on map to enlarge]


Figure 2: Impaired Waterbodies in the Judith Mountains TMDL Project Area

[click on map to enlarge


Judith Mountains TMDL Document


The "Judith Mountains Project Area TMDLs and Framework Water Quality Improvement Plan" was approved by EPA in June of 2013 and can be found on DEQ's Final TMDL Documents website under the Lower Missouri River Basin tab. Sections 9 and 10 of the document include recommended land management activities for improving water quality in this project area, and a monitoring strategy to evaluate progress toward attainment of water quality standards. For additional information, please see DEQ's Nonpoint Source Program webpage or contact Robert Ray (rray@mt.gov, 406-444-5319) for technical help and information on possible funding to implement water quality improvement projects.


A public meeting was held on April 17, 2013 at the Fergus Conservation District Office in Lewistown, MT (211 McKinley, Suite 3) where Lisa Kusnierz, the project manager, presented and discussed the document. Please contact Lisa if you would like to see a copy of the presentation: kusnierz.lisa@epa.gov, (406) 457-5001.



Project Contacts


This project was a joint effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality

Project Member





Lisa Kusnierz


Project Manager


(406) 457-5001

Peter Brumm


Project Assistance


(406) 457-5029

Robert Ray


Contact Robert for information & assistance on implementing water quality improvement projects


(406) 444-5319



Page Released: May 17, 2012

Last Updated: October 24, 2013