Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - In the ‘you learn something new every day’ category, I discovered that what I thought was a ‘riparian area’ between the Sinclair Station and the Northgate Plaza at 39th and Russell is actually called Cattail Corner, a critical part of the South Hills stormwater infrastructure.

As I was driving past, I saw the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment and assumed new construction was replacing the cattail marsh.

Not so.

Cattail Corner is Getting a $1 million Facelift

KGVO News spoke to Adam Marsh, City of Missoula Utility Engineer who is in charge of the project, who explained the purpose of what is called ‘Cattail Corner’.

“Cattail Corner is a stormwater treatment wetland,” said Marsh. “It's an integral part of the South Hills stormwater system that collects water from all the way up and in Pattee Canyon, Moose Can Gully, and all those drainages and conveys it down to the Bitterroot River.”

Marsh said the corner serves a vital purpose in the city’s stormwater infrastructure system.

“The Cattail Corner receives most of the base flows,” he said. “They're diverted into Cattail Corner during dry weather periods like this if we weren't doing construction. “Then, it's infiltrated into the soil and evapo-transported up into the air to reduce the sediment load and the nutrient load reaching down to the river. That's the purpose of the facility.”

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Cattail Corner Helps Keep the Bitterroot River Clean

Marsh said over the years the corner has become clogged with cattails and can no longer fulfill its designed function.

“We are doing a major rehab at this facility,” he said. “It's got a lot of sediment that's accumulated in it. The original detention volume has been greatly diminished by that sediment, and it can't store the stormwater that was originally intended. The cattails have also really taken over and choked out a lot of the native species, which have impacts not only for wildlife that utilize the area but also reduces the effectiveness of the treatment for nitrogen and phosphorus and other pollutants that make it into the into Cattail Corner.”

And, of course, no conversation about a city project would be complete without asking how much the project costs and who’s footing the bill. Marsh explained.

The Project is Funded Through ARPA and a State Revolving Fund

“This project costs just a hair over $1 million, and the funding is coming from a combination of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) grants and SRF loan that has been secured by the stormwater utility that stands for a State Revolving Fund. That’s the funding source for clean water and potable water.”

Marsh said the project should be completed in October, and weather permitting, more diverse native vegetation will be planted which will better utilize the nutrients than the cattails can themselves.

(A tip of the hat to City of Missoula Communications Director Ginny Merriam for help with this story.)

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