ARCO and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Dept. are still negotiating the renewal of a lapsed lease agreement that would provide maintenance for the recreational facilities at the Warm Springs Ponds (WSP).
The ponds, at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River, are a treatment facility for removing heavy metals from Silver Bow Creek. Over the years, the ponds have become a recreational site for fishing, bird watching, and other uses.
The first lease between ARCO and FWP ran from 1965 to 1985 and gave FWP responsibility to manage the area as a Waterfowl Production Area. It was renewed in 1985 and ended in 2005. In the late 1990s, ARCO developed visitor facilities that include picnic shelters, latrines, informational kiosks, signage, trails, wildlife viewing stations, boat launch areas, roads and parking lots. The conditions of these facilities have deteriorated over the years from a lack of attention and maintenance. The WSP lease agreement did not identify the maintenance of the recreational facilities as an area of responsibility for FWP and thus, it has been the agency’s view that ARCO has that responsibility.
FWP officials say that they hope that by July 1, 2009, FWP and ARCO will have a signed lease agreement to fund day-to-day maintenance operations for five years, with the possibility of adding up to five more years on a year-by-year basis. If the lease is not signed by July 1, FWP would possibly use another small grant from the NRDP to sustain necessary maintenance until such time the lease is signed. In March, FWP applied for funding through the NRD Program to make upgrades at WSP. The project would provide for new concrete latrines, fresh road and parking lot gravel, new signage, improved boat launching, new lumber and fresh paint on picnic shelters, and more functional and informative kiosks.