January 17, 2007

The Montana Natural Resource Damage Program has announced the release of applications for $8.5 million in 2007 grant funds for projects to restore the Upper Clark Fork River Basin.

The restoration projects will be funded with interest generated from the $130 million Restoration Fund established by the state in 1999 from settlement of several portions of its lawsuit against ARCO. The suit sought compensation for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin caused by decades of mining and smelting in the Butte and Anaconda areas by ARCO and its predecessors. To date, about $43 million has been awarded to 62 grant projects that will improve the Basin’s fish and wildlife habitat and populations, public recreation opportunities, and public drinking water supplies.

Government agencies, private entities and individuals may apply for grant funds for projects that will restore or replace the natural resources in the basin. Grant funds may also be used for developing future grant proposals or for conducting monitoring, research and education activities related to restoration of natural resources in the basin. Only projects that would be located in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin are eligible for funding, subject to limited exceptions.

Applications and guidance materials are available upon request from the Natural Resource Damage Program at 444-0205 or on the Department of Justice website. The deadline for grant applications for more than $25,000 is Friday March 9. Grant applications for $25,000 or less may be submitted on a continuous basis throughout the year. Applicants requesting more than $25,000 must use a long-form application, and there is a short form for applicants requesting $25,000 or less.

The NRDP will hold two workshops for those interested in applying for restoration grants. Workshops will be held:

* Tuesday, January 30
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Butte Red Lion Inn, 2100 Cornell, Butte
* Thursday, February 1
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Double Tree Hotel, 100 Madison, Missoula

Registration is required. To register for a workshop, call (406) 444-0229 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

January 15, 2007

The Milltown Design Review Team will meet on January 26, 2007 at 10 a.m. at Envirocon’s office in Missoula. The team, set up in 2005 to offer a technical review of the cleanup work at the Milltown Reservoir Superfund site, will meet to discuss results of Envirocon’s pilot dewatering test, the completion of the I-90 work pads, and the possible replacement of the Highway 200 bridge. For more information on the Design Review Team, call the CFRTAC office at 541-8099

January 15, 2007

The Montana Dept. of Transportation is considering whether it should reinforce or just replace the Highway 200 bridge over the Blackfoot River in Milltown, reports the Missoulian. Five bridges, built to stand in still water, must be reinforced or replaced before the Milltown Dam can be removed. The Interstate 90 bridge work has already begun. The state has been exploring options for the Highway 200 bridge and has learned that it would cost nearly as much to reinforce as it would to replace it.

And while the state evaluates its options, planning on the Bonner pedestrian bridge and much of the pedestrian trail system is on hold. The pedestrian bridge, which recently received a $975,000 grant from the state’s Natural Resource Damage Program, may be made redundant, as the new Highway 200 bridge would include a pedestrian walkway. The NRD money, however, was to be used by Missoula County as a match for federal funds from the transportation bill for a trail network in the Bonner-Turah area. That, too, is on hold, except for one section from Piltzville to the Bonner School, which has been funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Once additional details emerge, a public meeting will be held in Bonner, likely in early February. Check the CFRTAC website for updates.

January 15, 2007

Peter Nielsen of the Missoula County Health Dept. recently sent this update of what’s happening with work at the Milltown Reservoir Superfund site:

It’s been six months since the Milltown project began, with the initial reservoir drawdown in June, 2006. The Milltown Reservoir is currently drawn down about 10.5 feet from full pool.

Envirocon is nearly complete with its pilot bypass channel test pit excavation and dewatering test. The schedule calls for completion of the bypass channel by this time next year. The pilot project will provide information needed to finalize the design of the bypass channel. A section of the bypass channel will also be constructed, about 10% of the complete channel.

Bypass Channel

In this photo the bypass channel test construction area is visible. At the left of the photo, near the Interstate Highway, a yellow excavator is digging a section of the bypass channel. At the right side of the photo, equipment is stacking the excavated material for storage until it can be shipped to the waste disposal site. A temporary flood control berm will be completed to protect the excavated sediments from erosion.

The Design Review Team will review final plans for the complete Clark Fork flood control berm, storm water management and other important design features in coming weeks. Envirocon hopes to initiate construction of the Clark Fork flood berm in February. Haul road construction is also planned for early 2007. Bypass channel construction is planned to continue in the spring, 2007. A rail spur will be built beginning next year to haul the contaminated sediments to the former tailings ponds owned by the Atlantic Richfield Company (BP) near the former Anaconda Smelter.

Long Arm Excavator

This photo, courtesy of Envirocon, shows a long-arm excavator removing contaminated sediments in the bypass channel test pit. The smaller excavator is loading removed material into a truck for transport to the stockpile area. A network of wells and wick drains has been employed by Envirocon to remove enough water from the sediments so they can be handled by the excavators.

Additional photos of this excavation can be viewed at the project ftp site, in a folder called Dewatering Test Information. Other information on the project can also be found at that website, including water quality data and information on drawdown impacts on domestic wells.

Milltown Dam from Bluff

This photo shows the dam from the bluff on the south side of the river. A webcam is planned to be installed by EPA at this location sometime in early 2007. At the top of the photo is the Interstate highway bridge. Work has been completed by the Army Corps of Engineers to buttress the work pads beneath the bridges. These work pads became unstable last fall, causing some delay in completion of the Interstate stabilization project. The Highway bridges along the river must be strengthened to withstand the forces of a free-flowing river once the Milltown Dam is removed. Work will continue in March to stabilize the bridge embankments using a process called jet grouting. In this process a concrete mix is injected into interlocking columns at the base of the embankments to provide stability. This work must be completed prior to the next stage of reservoir drawdown, planned for fall 2007, when the reservoir will drop by an additional seven feet.

The State of Montana is planning for the removal of about 25,000 yards sediments contaminated with PCB’s in a cooling pond along the Blackfoot River, at the Stimson lumber mill. The Montana Department of Environmental quality has sampled sediments in the pond, and so far one of the samples had high enough levels of PCBs to require disposal at a hazardous waste disposal site. The cooling pond is separated from the river by an old timber-crib berm that needs to be reinforced before the Milltown Dam is removed to prevent potential erosion of the sediments into the river if the berm should fail. Montana DEQ plans to have the contaminated sediments removed in 2007, and the berm work completed in 2008.

If everything goes as planned, the Milltown dam spillway would be removed in early 2008.

Blackfoot River November 2005

Blackfoot River October 2006

The State of Montana removed more than 2,000 logs from the banks of the Blackfoot River upstream of the former Bonner Dam, which was removed just over a year ago. The photo at the left was taken November 2005 when the Bonner Dam was being removed. The photo at the right was taken October 2006 when the logs were being removed. The logs are visible stacked on the right bank. Note how the river has cut down into the river bed gravels following dam removal, and is finding its new course. An old timber crib structure is visible on the right bank of the river – these crib piers were used to raft up logs floated down the Blackfoot to the mill, before a railroad was available to transport logs to mill in the early 1900’s. EPA plans to have the piers removed before spring runoff, 2007.

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