Access to Mitchell Slough Confirmed by MT Supreme Court
Reprinted from PERRY BACKUS of the Ravalli Republic
HAMILTON - In a case with statewide implications, the Montana Supreme Court ruled Monday that Mitchell Slough is open to recreation under the state's stream access law.
The court said the 16-mile-long slough roughly follows the historical course of a waterway mapped 130 years ago, and therefore is subject to public access and required permitting, as are other natural waterways.The 54-page decision overturned two earlier rulings by state district courts that found the slough was not a natural, perennial-flowing stream.
Mitchell Slough is located east of the Bitterroot River between Hamilton and Stevensville. The Tucker Headgate directs water from the East Fork of the Bitterroot River into the slough. The water travels across private property, including that of wealthy landowners such as 1980s rocker Huey Lewis, for about 10 miles before re-entering the river.
Ditch companies and private water users have historically used water from the slough for irrigation, stockwater, and fish and wildlife purposes. They also routinely took actions above Tucker Headgate to ensure an even supply of water into the East Fork of the Bitterroot River. (for the rest of the article, click here )