State launches app to monitor algae growth on Smith River

State launches app to monitor algae growth on Smith River

News Type: State Source: NBC Montana
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If you’re lucky enough to draw a Smith River permit, your next float could help scientists gather important data. The Montana Department of Environmental Quality launched a smartphone app as a way for river-goers to track algae along the Smith River.

That river is known for its abundant fishing and sharp orange cliffs, but those wanting to enjoy the remote area must have a permit to float it in peak season.

The Montana DEQ says in recent years they’ve had numerous reports that algae growth on the Smith River is increasing and interfering with recreational activities.

Darrin Kron is the DEQ water monitoring supervisor. He explained that algae can be kind of an “ick factor” for swimmers, it impacts oxygen levels for fish and hinders insect habitat.

The new smartphone app lets floaters take and submit pictures of algae directly to the DEQ. They’re interested in knowing where the algae is growing but also where it’s not growing, so they encourage people to take photos along the entire Smith River float from put-in to take-out.

Using the app can also help save tax dollars.

“That’s a pretty remote spot, as we all know, you’ve got to have a permit to float, and then just getting on the river takes time. So that’s a big resource for the state. Some of the biggest costs we have for water quality monitoring is our personnel time, so we’re hoping to use the georeferenced photos to fill in the gaps about our knowledge of space — where it’s happening and when it’s happening,” said Kron.

The Montana Smith River Algae App is free to download.

A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency paid for the app.