January 25, 2008

In this month’s Montana Public Radio commentary, CFRTAC volunteer Pat Munday highlights the need for a comprehensive restoration plan for the Upper Clark Fork River Basin. With $20 million available in this grant cycle of the Natural Resource Damage Program, and major settlements on the way, a lot of money will be spent in the upper Clark Fork on restoration and replacement projects. “A watershed is a closely integrated system where the parts interact in intimate and sometimes unexpected ways. Without a holistic or “big picture” understanding, it is easy to fall into bad management practices.” What’s needed, he writes, is the approach that was taken at Silver Bow Creek, where a restoration plan was developed with broad public involvement. Read the commentary here (PDF).

January 23, 2008

The Montana Natural Resource Damage Program recently announced that grant applications are available for restoration projects in the upper Clark Fork River Basin. An informational workshop to help explain the process will be held January 31 at Fairmont Hot Springs. Up to $20 million is available for restoration and related projects in the next grantmaking cycle. Read the NRD press release after the jump.

Applications Available for Clark Fork Restoration Grants

HELENA – Applications for grant proposals to restore the Upper Clark Fork River Basin are now available, Kathleen Coleman, Program Specialist for the Natural Resource Damage Program announced Monday.

“We are starting the ninth year of the grant program aimed at returning the basin to a healthy ecosystem,” Coleman said. “This year, up to $20 million is available to fund grant projects approved by the governor. This year’s funding cap is significantly higher than it has been in the past.”

Grant applications for over $25,000 must be received by Friday, April 4. 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 application for applicants requesting $25,000 or less.

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 through the Natural Resource Damage Program at (406) 444-0205 or electronically on the Department of Justice Website at www.doj.mt.gov/lands/naturalresource/grantapplications.asp

The NRDP will hold a workshop for those interested in applying for restoration grants. “We strongly encourage all prospective applicants to attend this workshop,” Coleman said. “We will cover the basics of the application process in the morning and then provide more detailed information on the application and criteria in the afternoon.”

This year’s workshop is Thursday, Jan. 31 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fairmont Hot Springs, 1500 Fairmont Road in Fairmont. Registration is required. To register, call (406) 444-0229 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Once the applications are received, the Natural Resource Damage Program will consult with various government agencies and the Upper Clark Fork River Basin Advisory Council to prepare draft funding recommendations. These recommendations will then be considered by the Trustee Restoration Council, which consists of the governor’s chief of staff, directors of the state’s three natural resource agencies, the attorney general and the chairman of the advisory council. After a public comment period, the Advisory Council and Trustee Restoration Council will make recommendations to the governor, who is expected to make final funding decisions on proposals over $25,000 in December 2008. The Trustee Restoration Council makes final funding decisions on proposals of $25,000 or less.

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 $55 million has been awarded to 74 grant projects that will improve the Basin’s fish and wildlife habitat and populations, public recreation opportunities, and public drinking water supplies.

January 18, 2008

Milltown Dam Abutment Removal
Milltown Dam abutment wall removal

One hundred years after it first began operation, the Milltown Dam is now under deconstruction. To prepare for the powerhouse removal early this spring, the generators and associated equipment are being pulled and set aside for later interpretive use. Demolition on the north abutment wall is underway. See the EPA’s weekly update (PDF) or read more about it from the local media, the Missoulian and KPAX. Or watch the work in progress with the new “Eyes on Milltown” webcam at the Clark Fork Coalition’s website.

January 17, 2008

The Montana Natural Resource Damage Program’s newly finished restoration design plan for the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers near the Milltown Dam site is now available online. The state’s effort dovetails with the dam and sediment removal and seeks to return the rivers to a naturally functioning condition, to protect water quality and wildlife habitat and to offer safe recreational opportunities.

Click for a direct link to the design summary and implementation plan (PDF, 2Mb) or follow this link to the NRD program’s FTP site to find the complete plan and all its appendices. Details on accessing the documents follow the jump.The NRDP FTP site contains the Milltown Restoration Design 2008. This design package is titled, “Design Summary and Implementation Plan.” Included in this package is the draft construction plan set, materials list, revegetation plan, restoration schedule, and riverine structure summary. The documents are numbered 1 through 10 for easier downloading. The Design Summary and Implementation Plan and Appendices B, C, D, and E are relatively small in size. Appendix A is the construction plan set that includes a series of larger figures.

To download the Milltown Restoration Plan from the NRDP FTP, follow the path outlined below. Note: you should not open documents while in the ftp site as it may really mess up your computer.
Download documents to your computer, then open them.

Visit http://www.nrdp.info/

click: FTPPublic

click: Incoming Documents

click: Milltown Restoration

click: Final Documents – supporting documents are also listed at this location

click: Design Summary – includes Design Summary and Implementation Plan along with appendices

January 17, 2008

Along with its regular weekly Milltown project update (PDF), the EPA has released additional information on its response to well issues the East Missoula area, two miles downstream of the Milltown Dam. Having seen a number of wells go dry, EPA representatives met with Missoula County Commissioners last week and a roomful of concerned residents. The EPA has said it will reimburse residents for costs associated with Milltown-related well problems. Read more after the jump.

From the EPA’s community involvement coordinator Diana Hammer, comes this update:

Last Friday (1/11/08), Tony Berthelote, U of M researcher hired by Missoula County with EPA funds, and Russ Forba, EPA Project Manager for Milltown, gave a presentation to the Missoula County Commissioners and residents of the Marshall Grade/East Missoula area. The meeting was well attended and there was plenty of time for questions/discussion following the presentation. Some residents in the East Missoula area have seen the water level in their wells drop in recent weeks. This can be the result of many things including recent drought, increased development, local geology, and the time of year (very low water levels at this time). Historical data show that groundwater levels vary about 10 feet during the year (higher after spring flows, lowest in winter). However, EPA also believes that it is also responsible due to the reservoir draw down and continued daily pumping to dewater contaminated reservoir sediments. Therefore, EPA has expanded its area well program to include the Marshall Grade/East Missoula area.

As with its on-going well program in Piltzville and West Riverside, if residents have concerns about their well, EPA will pay for service calls and any follow-up work needed to correct problems resulting from the Milltown Reservoir draw down. To date, EPA has provided funds for: checking 222 wells and 68 service calls. Pumps have been lowered in 11 wells and 5 pumps have been replaced; 15 filtration systems have been installed; and 33 new wells drilled. The next reservoir drawdown of 12-14 feet is set for April. Impacts to area wells are expected to be greatest in wells near the Dam, decreasing farther away from the Dam.

EPA and Missoula County has expanded its extensive well monitoring network to include 4 new locations in the East Missoula Area. Tony Berthelote is updating the groundwater model to more accurately predict the conditions expected after the next drawdown. The U of M Groundwater Report is available at http://www.epa.gov/region8/superfund/mt/milltown/techdocs.html

If you have concerns about your well, please call Tony Berthelote at 207– 5856 or Deb Clevenger, EPA, 457-5004.

January 15, 2008

Milltown Dam Powerhouse Construction
Milltown Dam construction

Local history buff and Missoulian reporter Kim Briggeman took a historical look back at the Milltown Dam through remembrances of early journalist Arthur Stone. The article describes how Stone, a Missoulian reporter, was on-hand on January 9, 1908 when the switch was flipped at the powerhouse, generating electricity for the first time. Read the article here. (Photo courtesy of the Jack L. Demmons Collection/ Bonner School.)

January 15, 2008

The EPA has announced that it will no longer hold regular Milltown Health and Safety meetings. According to EPA project manager Russ Forba, the monthly meetings were originally set up to ensure that the local emergency responders (Fire/Sheriff Departments), Missoula County, and the Bonner School were informed about cleanup activities that affect the health and safety in the community and county. In an email announcement, he noted: “Attendance at the last few meetings has fallen off and some of the key players have not been present. EPA believes that these meetings have outlived their usefulness and that there are many other ways to keep these entities effectively informed.”

The EPA says it will continue to keep the Sheriff/Fire/County/School personnel directly informed about site activities. It will also work to keep the larger community informed via weekly site updates, weekly office hours in Milltown, project websites, and periodic public meetings.

Project staff are also available by email and by phone at the following numbers: EPA community involvement coordinator, Diana Hammer 457-5040, DEQ’s Keith Large 841-5039, and EPA project manager, Russ Forba 457-5042.

January 15, 2008

Milltown Winter Confluence
Winter confluence

The EPA reports in its weekly update that the powerhouse removal is on track for completion this winter. Check out the details here (PDF).

Missoula County’s monthly Milltown update notes the dam’s centennial with articles from the Missoulian of January 1908. The paper reported then that two million feet of timbers, 5000 barrels of cement, thousands of tons of granite and hundreds of tons of steel went into the dam’s contruction, ensuring that “the highest waters ever known in this vicinity will not affect it in the least.” Read more here (PDF).

January 11, 2008

Milltown Bridges
Bridges of Milltown

The Missoulian reports that some pedestrians are still crossing the old Black Bridge in Milltown at considerable risk. The Highway 200 and the old pedestrian bridges are being replaced as an offshoot of the Milltown Reservoir Superfund Project. And while that’s happening, there’s no designated pedestrian crossing. For the duration of the projects, which are scheduled to be complete next fall, pedestrians can catch a free Mountain Line bus across the Blackfoot River. Read more here.

January 9, 2008

The Missoulian reports that the EPA will spring for costs of addressing well issues in East Missoula, which may have been caused, at least in part, by the Milltown Reservoir Superfund cleanup. Residents who live downstream from the project have reported wells going dry in recent months. The EPA initially believed, based on computer modelling it had done, the issues were unrelated to the Superfund project. “The problem was our modeling showed (the drawdown) should have had an insignificant impact, but we’ve found it’s been 1 to 2 feet,” said EPA project manager Russ Forba. “If we’re partly responsible, then we’ll fix it.”

Read the full story here.

January 9, 2008

For the December Montana Public Radio commentary, CFRTAC coordinator Michael Kustudia takes a quick look back at events involving the Clark Fork River Superfund and a hopeful look forward for 2008. Check it out here (PDF).

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