December 3, 2008

Milltown Work November 2008
Milltown Nov. 25 2008

CFRTAC coordinator Michael Kustudia offers thanks for what’s gone well thus far with Milltown Superfund site in a Thanksgiving Day commentary for Montana Public Radio. Read it here (PDF) or pasted in below.

Happy Thanksgiving from CFRTAC. This has always been my favorite holiday and it has nothing to do with the Mayflower and pilgrims and enduring national myths. Rather, as the darkening winter approaches, we gather to share an autumnal feast with friends and family and pause and appreciate and celebrate all that’s going right, especially in a time when so much seems to have gone wrong.

So I’m humbly thankful for the great and ordinary things in my life, and even more than thankful that a new political era – as uncertain as it may be — lies on the horizon. In my work life, I’m thankful to be a bit player in a big drama that’s unfolding out at Milltown with the Superfund cleanup and restoration of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers.

Over the last few days I took a completely unscientific survey of what some of the people involved in the Milltown cleanup are giving thanks for – from area residents, the local, state and federal agencies, Envirocon and the nonprofit groups that are all involved in making the cleanup happen. Here’s a little bit of what I heard, collectively gathered and expressed by my editorial “we.”

We’re thankful that the contaminated Milltown aquifer is showing early signs of recovery. Thankful that the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers are flowing freely for the first time in a century. Thankful that the project is still on schedule and has come off with relatively little impact; thankful for the weather – a cool spring that minimized the effects of the dam’s breach and a mild fall with no snow that makes work easier. And we’re especially thankful that a year and a half of that work has gone on thus far without injury.

We’re thankful for the resilience of the natural world and trout that swam through the confluence only 12 days after the breach of the Milltown Dam and for the bald eagle soaring overhead that we saw just two days ago at the confluence.

We’re thankful for the spin-off community projects of the Milltown Superfund cleanup. Thankful for crossing the beautiful and new pedestrian bridge, and for driving across the new Highway 200 bridge, and walking on new trails through Piltzville. We’re thankful for everyone reaching out to preserve a bit of the history of the Milltown Dam and the community itself.

We’re thankful for the effort to guarantee that the land surrounding the confluence of the two rivers is put in public hands and hopeful the Governor will sign off on that proposal in the coming weeks. We’re thankful for the continuing work to create the state park envisioned at the confluence of the two rivers.

We’re thankful for the many local river heroes who spent decades and countless hours as professionals and volunteers striving to clean up a polluted river. We’re thankful for responsive government that really does reflect the will of the people. Thankful for all the people who are willing to collaborate and work hard to make this historic project the best it can be. We’re thankful for the broad community that has supported this project – and thankful for the skeptics and critics too because they ensure that good public process and constructive dialogue will always makes for a better outcome in the long run. And were hopeful that the benefits of a successful restoration will be one day recognized and enjoyed by all.

And while there’s plenty to be grateful for already, the Milltown Superfund cleanup and restoration is far from over. But we’re equally hopeful about the work that lies ahead.

You can keep track of that by visiting our website at This is Michael Kustudia for the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee. Thanks for listening and thinking about the river, and please pass me the stuffing.

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