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Rebuilding after Montana's flood damage? You may need a permit

Permits needed in rebuilding process
Posted at 9:46 AM, Jun 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-30 11:46:40-04

COLUMBUS - People who live along a riverbank or waterway and experienced damage from recent flooding may need to obtain numerous permits before starting to rebuild.

Sharon Flemetis with the Stillwater and Carbon County Conservation District says many land owners are unaware that these permits are required or even exist. “The biggest problem we have right now in both counties is people not doing the paperwork,” Flemetis said Wednesday.

Many have swooped into help neighbors, even strangers, in the wake of the floods — not realizing they may be adding to the damage. Flemetis says one property’s solution may become another's problem.

“Taking those large equipment and taking them into the river alters the stream bed,” Flemetis said.

Working without the appropriate permits could result in major fines. That is one reason the Stillwater Mine partnered with Crowley Fleck Law Firm to bring in Kalispell-based attorney Selena Sauer to help guide Stillwater County residents on which permits people would need.

“Everybody is confused about the environmental permitting process because so many different regulatory agencies, state and federal, are involved. That is just a confusing process,” Sauer said.

Permits are needed to protect the stream bed and ecosystem from damage that may occur due to repair in the stream, which is what the Conservation District covers. A permit under the Clean Water Act through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is needed to dredge and fill a riverbank.

A joint application was available in Stillwater County on Tuesday and Wednesday and covered seven separate permits one may need to obtain. Emergency work can get done immediately before a full permit would need to be processed.

“The regulatory agencies are here to help, so if you contact them they will help you. And if you work closely with them, then folks should not run into any problems,” said Sauer.

Permitting agencies across the board have now been doing what they can to expedite the approval process after such unprecedented flooding. “In the last two weeks I have gotten more permitting, more applications in than I usually do in a year,” Flemetis said.

More information about stream permitting can be found at