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Water Committee

The MWCC Water Committee is a group of technical water professionals who serve MWCC and the broader Montana watershed community. As a committee, we strive to connect watershed organizations, agencies, and the MWCC Board with the best available water resource information and science.  We consult with the MWCC Board, committees, and staff on technical water topics, project development, and implementation efforts. We also manage several workgroups, including the Water Activities Work Group (WAWG), as well as the Monitoring and Groundwater work groups, both of which existed in the past and may be reformed (ad hoc) as needed.

Committee Activities

    • Regular meetings (4-6 per year either in person or virtual)

    • Technical review of proposals submitted to the MWCC Watershed Fund (as appropriate)

    • Original content development and/or referral of content for the Watershed News and MWCC blog

    • Identification of technical topics and content for MWCC events and programs including: Annual Meeting, Symposium, Watershed Tour, Stewardship Awards, Big Sky Watershed Corps Program, Trainings, Webinars, etc.

    • Managing WAWG, which serves as the Water Subcommittee for the NRCS state technical advisory committee (STAC) and provides consultation on watershed selection for the NRCS National Water Quality Initiative

Water Committee Members:

Adam Sigler
Water Committee Chair

Adam has been working for MSU Extension since 2004, conducting programming to help Montanans understand, use, and protect their water resources. A central theme in that programming is engagement of citizens in the scientific process as a means to both enhance the science and increase the likelihood that research will be used to inform management. Adam is excited to bring insights from cutting edge scientific discovery to bear on the problems that water users and communities face. Adam recognizes that each watershed has a different set of issues for which solutions are best identified by local stakeholders informed with the best information available. As an employee of the public education branch of the university, Adam is dedicated to making water resource science approachable and relevant. Adam takes pride in working with MWCC as an organization dedicated to connecting watershed organizations to the information and resources they need to be effective.

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Katie Makarowski
Water Quality Specialist
Katie grew up in rural upstate New York. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Studies in 2004 at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. She moved to Missoula in 2007 to attend graduate school at the University of Montana and, in 2009, earned her Master of Science degree in watershed ecology through the Environmental Studies Department. While in graduate school, Katie spent two field seasons monitoring water quality across Montana for the Department of Environmental Quality’s Reference Stream Project. She has worked in Helena for DEQ’s Water Quality Planning Bureau since 2010 monitoring and assessing statewide surface water quality. Katie enjoys spending time with her family and friends, adventuring with her boyfriend (Ryan) and dog (Guthrie), cooking, doing artwork, seeing live music, gardening, rock hunting and exploring Montana. She is pleased to be a part of the Montana Watershed Coordination Council and is inspired by the many Montanans who are passionately protecting and preserving our water resources. Happy monitoring!
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Mark Ockey
Water Activities Work Group Leader
Mark Ockey was raised in western Oregon and Washington, where he spent most of his free time fishing, bird-watching, hiking, and exploring in the Cascade Mountains and Puget Sound. He received a Bachelor of Science in Agronomy from Brigham Young University. Following graduation from college, he met and married the lovely Jennifer Whitfield. She and he now have a beautiful daughter who is quickly becoming Mark’s favorite fishing buddy. Mark’s professional work has included nutrient management planning and outreach and education for conservation districts in Washington State. He also spent several years working in DEQ’s Permitting and Compliance Division, first in the coal mine permitting program, and then as the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation discharge permit coordinator. Currently, Mark enjoys working in DEQ’s nonpoint source pollution prevention program where he has primary responsibility for working with agricultural groups, and with CDs and watershed groups in central and eastern Montana. Mark finds great satisfaction in building relationships with members of the ag’ community to promote voluntary efforts to reduce nonpoint source pollution.
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Robert Ray
Water Committee Member

Robert Ray is a Water Quality Specialist in the Watershed Protection Section at the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. He managed the Nonpoint Source Program for the State of Montana from 2002 to 2016 and the TMDL program from 2002 to 2006. Prior to working for the state of Montana, he was the Director of Watershed Services at the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments. In that role he updated and implemented the Regional Water Quality Plan (208 Plan) and supported and participated in numerous watershed-scale water quality planning and implementation efforts. Robert has also worked in water quality protection for the city of Arvada, Colorado, the Virginia Water Control Board, and as a Research Associate at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Environmental Laboratories. He earned a BS in Biology from the University of New Mexico in 1982 and a MS in Marine Science from the College of William and Mary in 1986.

Robert is married and has a grown son and daughter. He loves the out-of- doors and gets great joy from skiing, running, mountaineering, biking, rafting, canoeing, etc.

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Valerie Kurth
Water Committee Member

Valerie works for DNRC as the Water Planner for the Clark Fork and Kootenai River Basins. From 2014-2019, she worked for the Flathead Conservation District in Kalispell, where she helped local landowners implement conservation projects on private property. She earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees while studying forestry and ecosystem ecology in Montana and Arizona, and she has published peer-reviewed research on wood-inhabiting fungi, forest nutrient cycling, and an original approach to assessing disturbance severity. She also has a diversity of field experience, including riparian vegetation monitoring in Montana and Idaho and freshwater mussel surveys in Minnesota. In her free time, she enjoys mountain biking, traveling, and getting on the water in a raft or canoe.

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Brett Heitshusen
Water Committee Member

Brett Heitshusen grew up on a small farm raising corn, soybeans, hogs, and cattle near Williamsburg, Iowa. He was enlisted in the US Air Force before graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder in 2016 with a BA in Geography Earth Science, technical certifications in Hydrology and Geospatial
Information Science and Cartography, and also a BA in English Poetry. While at CU Boulder Brett collected surface and groundwater samples and maintained data logger and weather station networks for the Boulder Critical Zone Observatory. In 2013, Brett also participated in a summer field season
collecting dendrochronology data to reconstruct historic wildfire extents in Montana’s Paradise Valley and Hungry Horse Reservoir watersheds. Currently Brett works at the Montana Department of Agriculture - Groundwater Protection Program, monitoring the state’s groundwaters for agricultural
chemicals and collaborating with the Montana Mesonet to construct a state-wide weather station network. In his free time, Brett enjoys Montana’s outdoors, writing, hardscaping, sculpture and ceramics.

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Brent Zundel
Water Committee Member

Brent Zundel grew up in Billings, Montana, and first learned to appreciate the Yellowstone River basin’s water resources by swimming in rivers and canals and fishing high-country lakes. He moved to the Gallatin River basin to attend Montana State University, graduating with degrees in civil engineering and Spanish.
He is a civil engineer with the Bozeman office of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC). At DNRC, he works with a broad range of water-related programs, primarily safety of dams, floodplain management, hydrology, and water rights. He enjoys working with a wide range of water professionals and provide on-the-ground technical support to water users.
In 2015, he spent a nine-month sabbatical as a Fulbright researcher in Concepción, Chile, studying water resource management in south-central Chile, where he refined his passion for pisco, palta (avocado), and unintelligible Spanish slang.
In his free time, he enjoys all outdoor activities, cooking, oil painting, and traveling in Latin America. His favorite place in the world is above timberline in the Beartooth Mountains.

Erin Wall
Water Committee Member

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Georgia, Erin came to Montana as an AmeriCorps member serving with the Gallatin Conservation District. After her term, she worked for the Forest Service conducting stream and riparian assessments in the Little Belt and Castle Mountains, and then Montana State University Extension- Water Quality where she administered the Well Educated program, developed sampling and analysis plans and monitoring protocols for conservation districts and watershed groups, and assisted in water quality monitoring efforts. Currently, Erin is a Source Water Specialist with Montana Rural Water Systems where she works with community water systems to develop and implement source water protection plans. When she isn’t working to protect Montana’s drinking water, Erin enjoys knitting, ceramics, learning how to sew, and spending time outdoors.