December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas Montana: the state now owns the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers and the land currently occupied by the Milltown Superfund site.

Today, Gov. Brian Schweitzer signed off on a $13 million slate of Natural Resource Damage Program projects, including a $586,000 proposal to facilitate the state’s acquisition of more than 400 acres from the Northwestern Energy Company. The land transfer includes the confluence area and the Clark Fork flood plain above it and also the narrow strip along the Blackfoot River up to the pedestrian bridge in Milltown.

The proposal was submitted jointly by the Clark Fork Coalition and the Milltown Superfund Redevelopment Working Group, a community stakeholder body appointed by the Missoula County Commissioners to look at the Superfund site’s future. The Working Group has long advocated the creation of public park at the site once the cleanup and restoration work is complete. Earlier this year, the group developed a conceptual design plan for a state park. For more on other approved projects, see the NRDP’s press release (PDF).

December 18, 2008

Stimson Mill Berm

The state of Montana has filed a lawsuit against the Stimson Lumber Co. seeking to force the mill to remove an earthen berm built alongside the Blackfoot River. Located just upstream from the Milltown Superfund site, the Stimson berm holds back the mill’s cooling pond, which is contaminated with PCBs and is the subject of a state-ordered cleanup. Read the Missoulian article or check out coverage by the broadcast media, KECI and KPAX.

December 18, 2008

Excavation work at the Milltown Superfund site is 60 percent complete and the spillway is set to be removed by early spring, according to the EPA’s most recent project update. Read more (PDF) on the remediation effort, the bridge work and the news that the Clark Fork River could be diverted from the bypass channel to its new, permanent, river channel in August of 2010.

December 18, 2008

A recent newsletter from the Milltown-based Friends of Two Rivers features articles on the state’s restoration project at the Milltown Superfund site. Project manager Doug Martin wrote articles on this year’s activities, including weed control, plant salvage and new data collection focused on last spring’s runoff. Read the full newsletter (PDF, 1.1 MB) or visit the Friends of Two Rivers website.

December 18, 2008

The long awaited reprint of A Grass Roots Tribute: The History of Bonner, Montana has been released. The book, first published in 1976, is a community history of the greater Bonner-Milltown area. It is available for $20 at the Bonner School or through the school’s website. For more information call the school at 258-6151.

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 cfrtac.org. 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.

December 3, 2008

The Montana Dept. of Environmental Quality (DEQ) reports that the agency has completed another five-mile section of the Silver Bow Creek Superfund cleanup. That section includes Ramsay Flats, an area already being repopulated by trout. Read the press release below.

MT DEQ completes major section of Silver Bow Creek environmental cleanup
HELENA – The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has finished cleanup of a major, five-mile stretch of Silver Bow Creek extending from the Port of Montana downstream to Miles Crossing.

“We finished seeding it yesterday and we’re done,” says DEQ Project Manager, Joel Chavez.

The $17.5 million project began in 2004 and is a significant part of the overall $100 million remediation and restoration operation that has been underway since 1999 to clean up 22 miles of Silver Bow Creek contaminated by mine waste.

“Many people in the community seem pleased with the work. Folks are saying ‘looking good’ and ‘looks great’,” says Chavez. “This site is in their front yard and generations of people have been looking at a dead zone that isn’t dead anymore.”

The five-mile area includes Ramsay Flats where live trout have now been found.

Approximately 65 percent of the 22 miles has been cleaned up. The entire project, which extends from the I-15 and I-90 bridges, West of Butte, to Warm Springs Ponds, is expected to be completed by 2012.

In 1983, the Silver Bow Creek/Butte area was listed as a Federal Superfund site. Funds from a legal settlement with ARCO are paying for the cleanup.

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