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Spanish Peaks Mountain Club to limit golf course irrigation following settlement

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The West Fork of the Gallatin River downstream from the Big Sky County Water and Sewer District storage ponds. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

By Jason Bacaj MANAGING EDITOR

Spanish Peaks Mountain Club settled this month with Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and Gallatin Wildlife Association, resolving a lawsuit the two groups brought against the club alleging that it violated the Clean Water Act.

The suit claimed Spanish Peaks illegally discharged nitrogen into the South Fork of the Gallatin River due to over-irrigating its golf course with reclaimed wastewater.

Spanish Peaks denied the allegations and the settlement “allows the parties to avoid a protracted dispute and costly legal fees,” according to a joint statement issued by the three organizations.

“Although the parties continue to disagree on the merits of the lawsuit, they have agreed to put aside their differences in favor of a resolution that everyone agrees will benefit water quality in the Gallatin River watershed,” the release states.

Under the terms of the settlement, the high-end club must install a new liner at the Hole 10 Pond on its golf course and limit reclaimed wastewater irrigation to 33.6 million gallons per year. The club must also submit an annual nutrient management plan for the golf course to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for five years, and monitor water quality levels above and below the golf course and submit the findings to both the DEQ and Cottonwood.

The club also agreed to pay $34,000 to the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology to study nutrient reduction and water conservation in the Big Sky area, documents show.

Nuisance algae blooms have hit the Gallatin River for five consecutive years and are likely caused by large amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water, Scott Bosse, Northern Rockies Regional Director with American Rivers, told EBS in June.

The DEQ in June made a preliminary decision to classify the Gallatin River as impaired by algal blooms, following efforts from several conservation groups asking the state to declare the river impaired.

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