BUTTE — The Basin Creek Reservoir is opening to the public for the first time ever.
The move keeps a promise made to the Butte Natural Resource Damage Council when it donated $10 million to the water treatment plant to open the reservoir for recreation.
"With that money, we’ll hire a camp post, they’ll kind of watch up there. We have one of our employees go up there daily to take a look," said Bob Lazzari, Butte-Silver Bow Parks and Recreation Director.
The reservoir could be open soon but with limited access.
You can hike, bike, fish, and picnic at the reservoir -- just don't plan on getting in the water.
"There’s no motorized vehicles allowed, there’s fishing, no motorized craft on the reservoir. There's no wading in the water. Our goal is to, again, just to protect our water resource up there," said Lazzari.
From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the reservoir will open from the east side at the Basin Creek Reservoir Park.
"It’s probably half a mile and it’s a fairly decent grade up the road, and we do ask people to stay behind the fence and not get in with any of the water company infrastructure. And if we do have people that are not obeying the rules and vandalizing or putting up graffiti, then we will have to close it up again," said Pat Cunneen, engineer with the Butte-Silver Bow Public Works Department.
In 1913, the Basin Creek Reservoir was once called the best water supply in the world. By 1919, it was threatened by drought.
The Butte water company and commissioners had an idea. They decided to shut off water to sprinklers, only allowing people to water their lawns and gardens with a hose for two days out of the week. For five days of the week, the water would be off. But, if people really wanted to water their lawns, they would have to use a bucket.
The company and commissioners thought that if people had to go through the trouble of carrying the water in buckets, they wouldn't use more than they could carry.
The Basin Creek Reservoir supplies Butte with drinking water, so restrictions may fluctuate.
"We might possibly have restrictions due to construction or if we have low water in the reservoir or high temperatures in the water, so we don’t want to have the fish stressed while people are trying to wrangle them out of the reservoir. Also, our snowpack is pretty low this year, so there will be a chance that we could end this season early because of forest fire, wildfire risks up there," said Cunneen.
The Basin Creek Reservoir could open by late June.