Twelve proposed Natural Resource Damage Program projects in the upper Clark Fork River Basin  await final review by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

The projects, totaling roughly $15 million, have been vetted  the NRDP staff and approved by the advisory council and trustees. The Governor, however, makes the ultimate decision. The process began last March with proposal submissions, which were then reviewed by the NRD staff. Later in the summer, the newly appointed NRDP advisory council made efforts to expedite the review of the projects. The council and trustees made draft recommendations last fall, followed by a 30-day public comment period. In mid-December the council and trustee made their final recommendations.

If approved, NRDP grant funding would help bring drinking water to Butte and Anaconda. It would remove old river piers and thousands of logs from the Blackfoot River and install fish screen on tributaries. It would acquire or protect valuable recreational lands along the Clark Fork River and elsewhere in Anaconda-Deer Lodge, Powell, Granite and Missoula Counties. It would fund the initial development of a state park at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers at theMilltown Superfund site. It also would fund a bird study in the upper Clark Fork's riparian corridor.

As part of the Montana Dept. of Justice, the NRDP manages a $120 million restoration fund created by lawsuits against the AtlanticRichfield Company, the party financially responsible for upper Clark Fork Superfund cleanup, for past mining damages done in the upper Clark Fork. Interest from the fund is used for grant-making, and over the last decade, more than $67 million has been spent on restoring or replacing fish and wildlife habitats, recreational facilities and drinking water supplies.

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