Why oppose the glampground development?

Would you like to see Montana's pristine natural resources protected from developments like the "Riverbend Glamping Retreat"? This means staying on top of floodplain regulations, checking applications for accuracy, retaining professional services for legal and environmental insights, and spreading the word to concerned citizens. It has been an incredible learning experience. What's at stake? The health of the river's ecosystem, impacts on wetlands, protection of native vegetation, protecting wildlife corridors and migratory bird paths, and flood damage! The 16-acre parcel of concern is home to wildlife like deer, moose, bobcats, mink, otters, osprey, eagles, king fishers, and other birds and small mammals. This land has been subject to flooding throughout history (see photo below). Think of all the things a glampground like this could wash into the river in the even of a log jam or ice jam. 

Environmental Concerns

  • The scope and scale of land alteration will dramatically change how water is transported as surface runoff increases and groundwater infiltration decreases

  • Increased disturbance by human use may cause a stream to become biologically sterile

  • Increased pollutants from 63 units housing with 2-4 people each will negatively affect water quality and stream health

  • Fixed permanent infrastructure will exacerbate flooding

  • Damage to vegetation, streams and wetlands reduces the watershed's ability to naturally process pollutants

  • Impervious structure on as little as 20% surface cover in a watershed can render a stream lifeless

  • Overall detrimental impact on the Gallatin River ecosystem including the river, wetland and riparian areas

  • Loss of habitat

  • Increased negative impacts on aquatic life 

  • Damage caused to tree roots leading to bank instability

  • Increased storm water flow and flood severity due to floodplain disruption

  • Reduced groundwater

  • Increased erosion

Environmental harm to the Gallatin River ecosystem of this nature could be irreparable and who would pay for the damage or restoration?   

 

The Glampground and Legal Permits

 

Montana’s Natural Streambed and Land Preservation Act, also known as the 310 Law, is a state law that requires any person planning to work in or near a stream or river on private or public land to first obtain a 310 Permit from their local conservation district. Permits are free of charge.. The purpose of the 310 law is to minimize impacts and damages from man-made projects and alterations. The Glampground property owner, Jeff Pfeil, was served a cease and desist order by the Gallatin Conservation District (GCD) when it was discovered he was digging a pond and altering the banks of a spring creek without a 310 permit. Pfeil challenged the ruling suggesting the creek was a man-made ditch. It took about a year but ultimately the GCD ruled that the waterway is a jurisdictional spring creek. Their Findings of Facts document is a fascinating read. In January 2021, the GCD requested that the property owner submit a 310 permit application so they can review what activities have taken place over the last year. This was due by February 12, 2021. Instead, the property owner appealed the GCD’s ruling on the creek vs ditch ruling and it now awaits ruling from District Court. If the District Court upholds the GCD ruling, Pfeil will have to complete a 310 permit application. At that point, the GCD would review the application, the property itself, and consult experts as they develop a plan and decide what they will ask the property owner to do next.

 

 

As of February 2021, we are awaiting the decision by the Floodplain Administrator Sean O’Callaghan to either grant or deny the floodplain permit for the development of the entire project. O’Callaghan granted a permit for drilling under the river with the condition that it cannot happen unless the development permit is also approved. 

Other Regulatory Concerns

In addition to the potential environmental damages, concerns regarding pipeline installation under the Gallatin River include:

 

  • Pipeline damage or rupture caused by river scour - common on pipes installed near bridges like the proposed installation site

  • Damage and disruption to riverbanks during pipeline installation

  • Damage and disruption of riverbed during pipeline installation

  • Effluent and/or natural gas leaks in the case of pipeline damage

  • Gallatin Gateway Water and Sewer District members may be liable for costs associated with waste water service issues

Community Impact Concerns

 

  • Detrimental effects on neighboring properties - upstream and downstream

  • Sediment deposit raising the streamed

  • Scope and scale of land alteration will dramatically change the way water is transported as surface runoff increases and groundwater infiltration decreases. 

  • Disturbance by human use may cause stream to become biologically sterile. Increased pollutants from 63 housing units with 2-4 people each will negatively affect water quality and stream health.

  • Fixed permanent infrastructure will exacerbate flooding.

  • Damage to vegetation, streams and  wetlands reduces the watershed's ability to naturally process pollutants.

  • Impervious structure on as little as 20% surface cover in a watershed can render a stream lifeless.

  • Overall detrimental impact on the Gallatin River ecosystem including the river, wetland/riparian areas

  • Loss of habitat

  • Increased negative impacts on aquatic life  

  • Damage caused to tree roots in riparian zone, leading to bank instability

  • Increased storm water flow and flood severity due to floodplain disruption

  • Reduced groundwater

  • Increased erosion  

  • Create a hazardous situation for users of the resort by housing them within a floodway.

  • Should a flood occur and all 63 units are unable to be moved in time, debris from the flood damaged units may create an hazardous situation for neighboring properties, down stream properties and emergency personnel

  • Decrease the quality of life of local residents by increasing traffic, pollution, noise pollution in a town that is not designed or equipped for a significant seasonal influx of tourism

  • Dangerous roads due to significantly increased traffic 

 

Other Project Concerns

 

  • According to the property owner and by our own observations, the project closely resembles a subdivision and should require subdivision review. 

  • Project should require a 404 wetland permit from the Army Corp of Engineers

  • Project should require a 318 water quality permit from the DEQ

  • No natural resource benefits associated with this project

  • No benefit to the Gallatin Gateway community in general 

Modifying Floodplain Regulations

FEMA and DNRC are urging the Gallatin Floodplain Administrator (GFA) to do a comprehensive update to the Floodplain Regulations to ensure they are in compliance with the current minimum state and federal requirements.  The basis of the new ordinance is the Model Floodplain Ordinance available from DNRC.  The GFA has  worked with FEMA and Montana DNRC to improve upon DNRC’s model ordinance and believe their draft conforms to state and federal requirements.  The County Attorney’s Office will review the draft before it is available for public comment. This should happen sometime in February, 2021. 

 

The Commission must take final action on the updated ordinance by March 16th.  There is a 30-day lag time between their action and when the new ordinance goes into effect, and the new ordinance must go into effect prior to or on April 21, 2021 to coincide with the effective date of the new FEMA flood insurance study.   Right now, the time to provide comments to the County Commission on the updated ordinance would be March 2nd. The GFA is working on getting one more hearing scheduled, probably in late February, to provide additional opportunity.

What are the plans for the Axtell Bridge?

We've been hearing chatter about plans to replace the historic Axtell Bridge. Can this popular landmark be saved? We're keeping our ears to the ground and will keep you informed.