After a long and damaging winter, the two fishing access sites nearest Ennis should open up to the public within the next couple of weeks.
The easier of the two to get open will be Valley Garden Fishing Access Site near Jeffers, said Chris McGrath, Madison River manager for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The Valley Garden access should be open by Wednesday or Thursday this week, McGrath said.
The Ennis fishing access is going to be more difficult to get open, he said.
The problem with both access sites is that in recent years they both have suffered annual damage from the ice gorging in the Madison River.
Damage to the Ennis access site and campground from the ice used to be less frequent – about every five to seven years, McGrath said.
However, FWP has had to do substantial repairs to the site each of the last four years.
This year the ice gorging took out the road into the site and damaged much of the interior of the site, he said.
FWP officials were only able to access the site a couple weeks ago to assess the damage because of the remaining ice. A plan and cost estimate are still in the works to fix the problems, McGrath said.
“It’s become a very big money sink,” he said. “It has become expensive for us to fix the same issue every year.”
Though estimates for the cost to fix the Ennis site are still coming in, it could be more than $15,000 this year, McGrath said.
The annual expense is going to force the agency to look at some long-term fixes to the problem this summer, he said.
However, just what those fixes will be are still unknown.
“We are going to look at a long-term site improvement redesign,” McGrath said. “Whatever it’s going to end up being, we don’t know at this time.”
He hopes that contractors can start work on the site within the next two weeks.
“It’s one of the major take outs and we would love to get it open as soon as possible,” McGrath said. “We’re going to do what it takes to get it open as soon as possible. It’s a very popular site and we want it to be open so the public has access to the river.”