Protect the waters, natural resources, and environment of Flathead Basin by support the Commission.

Our Mission

To protect the existing high quality of the Flathead Lake aquatic environment; the waters that flow into, out of, or are tributary to the Lake and; the natural resources and environment of the Flathead Basin.

About the Flathead Basin Commission

The Flathead Basin Commission (FBC) was created in 1983 by the Montana Legislature to monitor and protect water quality and the natural resources in one of the State's most important watersheds. The FBC is a uniquely structured non-regulatory organization that works to accomplish its mandate in a consensus-building manner, stressing education, cooperation, broadly based community involvement, partnerships with agencies and nonprofit groups, and the voluntary participation of Basin residents. Consistent with the duties of the Commission as stated in the establishing statute the Commission considers its role in the Basin to:

  • Coordinate water quality protection and monitoring activities
  • Working with our partners, ensure that water quality, economic, land use and natural resource data is gathered, analyzed, interpreted and disseminated to the public and responsible agencies.
  • Facilitate policies and actions that have a positive result on water quality and natural resources.
  • Provide leadership in making the case for Basin water quality and protection of its natural resource.

The twenty-three member Commission represents a cross-section of citizens and local, state, tribal, federal and provincial agency representatives who strive to identify the Basin's water quality and natural resources problems and work collectively to implement the most effective solutions. The Agency members of the Commission are prescribed in statute; the Governor appointed members are selected for four-year staggered terms.

The Flathead Basin Commission has become a model of successful citizen and inter-agency cooperation in a geographically vast and ecologically diverse watershed characterized by its overall pristine character, international dimension, and multi-jurisdictional nature.

Outline of the Flathead Basin in Montana

Enabling Legislation

Flathead Basin Commission 2021/2022 Biennial Report

Water Quality-Nonpoint Source Pollution

The Flathead Basin is home to large clear lakes, clean cold rivers, and extensive groundwater resources that support our economy, promote robust ecological benefits and environmental services, and provide vast recreational opportunities to our community. Nonpoint Source (NPS) pollution is the leading cause of water quality issues in the United States and Montana. NPS pollution originates from sources that are difficult to pinpoint and are spread through runoff, precipitation, drainage, atmospheric deposition, or seepage. The water transports natural and human-made pollutants, depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, and aquifers. NPS pollution includes excess fertilizers, pesticides, oil, sediment, salts, as well as bacteria and nutrients from livestock and septic systems. These pollutants have significant harmful effects on drinking water supplies, recreation, fisheries, and wildlife in the Flathead watershed. The FBC adopted a strategic plan in 2019 that has prioritized addressing nonpoint source pollution issues impacting water quality in the Flathead Basin.

Septic Leachate

While nonpoint source pollution includes many different divergent sources, septic leachate is one that has been well-documented in the Flathead Basin dating back to the 1970s. Septic systems offer a unique risk to surface and groundwaters given the difficulty to identify poorly functioning and failed systems. Septic systems that are properly planned, designed, sited, installed, operated, and maintained can achieve satisfactory wastewater treatment. However, systems that are sited in densities that exceed the treatment capacity of regional soils and systems that are outdated or poorly designed, installed, operated, or maintained can pollute water resources.

The Flathead Basin Commission formed the Onsite Wastewater Treatment Committee to address water quality and public health concerns as they relate to septic leachate. The Committee is comprised of interested commissioners, partners, and concerned citizens. All meetings are open to the public.

Goals/Objectives of FBC Onsite Wastewater Committee:

In 2020, the committee identified the need to better understand the scope and extent of the septic leachate problem in the Flathead Basin and provide potential solutions to address the issue. River Design Group, Inc. (RDG) was contracted to use existing public spatial data to map the risk of septic systems. The two primary goals were to model the existing risk from current septic systems and develop a tool to predict the effectiveness of future septic systems across the basin.

This project has increased the overall understanding and spatial component of the physical and existing septic risk factors within the Flathead Basin. Overall, these models will allow the public, planners, regulators, and policymakers to engage in science-based decision-making to protect the Flathead Basin's unique and iconic water resources. The final Onsite Wastewater Risk Analysis GIS Technical Report is in the process of being peer reviewed and can be viewed in DRAFT form at the link below.

View the report here.

FBC presented the findings of the septic risk model and technical report with decision makers across the Flathead Basin in late 2022 and early 2023, including county staff and commissioners, local governments and their elected officials, and tribal council and staff. An interactive version of the model is available online and can be viewed in the embedded application below.

Stormwater Projects

The FBC, partnering with the City of Kalispell, initiated a series of projects assessing and addressing stormwater in the basin. We were able to secure an EPA grant and a Big Sky Watershed Corps (BSWC) member to lead the work. In the first phase of the project, our BSWC member developed a stormwater inventory for the basin, sampled during storm events for pollution, conducted outreach for a rain garden initiative and built a volunteer base for gathering data. See the final report from Phase I of the project here, the summary of Phase I here and the final report from Phase II of the project here.

Upcoming Meetings

May 4th, 2023
Hybrid: Whitefish, MT & Zoom

Commission Members & Staff

Rich Janssen, Flathead Basin Commision Chair

Rich Janssen

Casey Lewis, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Vice Chair

Jasmine Courville, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Jasmine Courville Brown

Sandy Beder-Miller, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Sandy Beder-Miller

Kurt Steele, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Kurt Steele

Jeff Mow, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Jeff Mow

Jim Simpson, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Jim Simpson

Jack Potter, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Jack Potter

Randy Brodehl, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Randy Brodehl

Scott Rumsey, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Scott Rumsey
Flathead Conservation District Supervisor

Mike Freeman, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Mike Freeman

Brian Hughes, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Brian Hughes

Steve Stanley, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Steve Stanley

James Ferch, Montana Dept. of Natural Resources and Conservation

James Ferch

Mark Bostrom, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Mark Bostrom

Myla Kelly, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Myla Kelly

Jim Williams, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Jim Williams

Kate Wilson, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Kate Wilson

Bill Dykes, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Bill Dykes

Peter Brumm, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Peter Brumm

Casey Lewis, Flathead Basin Commision Member

Casey Lewis
Executive Director

Cassidy Bender, Commission Coordinator Flathead Basin

Cassidy Bender
FBC Coordinator

Emilie Henry, Nonpoint Source Coordinator

Emilie Henry
Nonpoint Source Coordinator