Last month, while on a trip out to Missoula, I stopped by the Sixmile Creek Farmers Screen, which was installed in 2011. As project manager for FCA, I like to check on projects at least once a year. This diversion is just 10 minutes off the highway which makes it an easy side trip.
This year was the screen’s third full season of operation. I can always tell by the amount of vegetation growing around a screen if it’s had a successful year — trampled vegetation means lots of foot traffic, which means a lot of screen maintenance. As you can see here, the area around the screen looks kind of overgrown – that’s a good thing.
I was also impressed by how well the screen is holding up to the elements. The screen material itself is stainless steel, but the body of the screen is a mild steel sheet metal. This project was installed on a very tight budget and, in an effort to save money, our client Trout Unlimited decided to forgo painting the screen. Over time, surface rust will develop so we’ve been monitoring the effects of not painting the screen on this installation. I was impressed to see that this year it really didn’t look any different from last year.
I didn’t take any flow measurements while on site like I usually do, but it looked to me like there was an adequate amount of screened water running for this late in the season. Sometimes, when a fish screen looks like it hasn’t been visited in a long time, it means bad things for how it’s actually being operated. Our first priority at FCA is to ensure that the Farmers Screen is the right screen technology for any diversion. I’ve seen too many fish screens that were poorly suited to conditions at their site, and then simply abandoned because water user gave up in frustration trying to keep up with maintenance. It’s great to see how well our site vetting process works. This is the happiest little screen in Montana!
Well … except for the two other FCA Farmers Screens in Montana!