Nicky Ouellet

Nicky is MTPR's Flathead-area reporter.

The Montana Legislature wrapped up the special session to fix the state’s overburdened budget early Thursday morning. Corin Cates-Carney has been covering the fast-paced developments all week. He’s here with us now to give us highlights from this week’s special session.

As state legislators return to Helena next week to try to balance the state budget, one of the programs facing deep cuts is tasked with protecting rivers and lakes in the Flathead Basin from invasive mussels. They may not be able to continue that work.

The Flathead Basin Commission was supposed to oversee a new pilot program next summer that would shore up protections against zebra and quagga mussels, invasive species that have caused millions of dollars of damage in infested states and changed lake ecosystems in ways we still don’t really understand.

Montana was invaded last summer. Not by land, not by air, but by water. A microscopic alien showed up in water samples from the Tiber Reservoir, opening the door to a wide range of potentially devastating impacts for Montana's fisheries, outdoor enthusiasts and industries.

What happens if Montana fails to stop the coming invasion of zebra and quagga mussels threatening the state's water bodies? MTPR's Nicky Ouellet looks into Montana's future (or one possible future) to see how the invasive mussels changed the Great Lakes region, and examines Montana's efforts to detect and prevent their spread.

Whitefish city counselors adopted an affordable house “roadmap” last night to tackle growing demand in the resort town.

Rent and mortgage rates have been outstripping average incomes in Whitefish for years, effectively forcing year-round workers, like teachers, cooks and firefighters, to look for housing outside the city where they work.

The Whitefish city council will hear the final draft of the city’s strategic housing plan at a regularly scheduled meeting tonight.

A public hearing in Kalispell Thursday highlighted the need for more affordable housing and additional space for programs in the city for youth and seniors.

During Kalispell’s annual community needs assessment on how to spend federal grant money about two dozen Flathead Valley residents spoke about the general need for more space.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on a proposed gravel pit four miles east of Seeley Lake.

Deer Creek Excavating, LLC, has applied to mine gravel on a 26.5-acre site known as the Cottonwood Pit. A similar application from a different company to mine the Cottonwood Pit drew opposition from locals at the county level last year.

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new modeling framework for collection and analysis of selenium data in Lake Koocanusa.

The framework is designed to organize data collected by different agencies using different protocols, with a long-term goal of helping managers develop a common water quality standard for selenium levels in Lake Koocanusa, which straddles the international border.

Both of Montana’s senators questioned federal oversight of a multi-million dollar contract between Montana-based Whitefish Energy and the Puerto Rican electric utility during a Senate committee hearing today.

Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines grilled administrators overseeing power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico during the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

At sunset, the forest west of Whitefish is more golden than green, the needles of western larches catching the last rays of sunlight. The glowing trees look like they’re on fire. Even now, with snow on the forecast, folks who live deep in this forest, like Ben Duvall, are still thinking about wildfire.

Duvall is the fire chief for Big Mountain Fire and Rescue, and last week, he hosted two-dozen neighbors, kids and dogs to talk about creating a fire adapted community; basically, making their neighborhood ready to withstand fire moving through it without much help from firefighters.

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