September 29, 2006

On Sept. 28 the EPA released the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Butte Priority Soils Superfund site. The ROD addresses the cleanup of soil, surface water and groundwater in Butte and Walkerville, an area that is the source of Silver Bow Creek and the headwaters of the Clark Fork River.

Butte

The ROD, according to an EPA press release, requires the:

* establishment of a metals abatement program which includes attic dust removal,
* removal of sediments and contaminated soils in Silver Bow Creek,
* groundwater and surface water monitoring programs,
* full implementation of the Lower Area One (LAO) Metro Storm Drain groundwater collection and treatment system,
* implementation of a Best Management Practices program for storm water control and surface water,
* cleanup of source areas with elevated levels of heavy metals, and
* implementation of the source area reclamation evaluation.

Check out the Montana Standard’s coverage. An EPA fact sheet is available and the full document can be found at the EPA website. An EPA Open House will be held on November 9 from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at the Butte Silver Bow Courthouse at 155 W. Granite St.

September 25, 2006

The Milltown Redevelopment Working Group will hold its monthly meeting Tuesday, Sept. 26 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Bonner. Click here for the agenda (PDF). The meeting is open to the public.

September 21, 2006

Dust at ARCO's Repository

CFRTAC recently submitted comments to the EPA, the DEQ, BP-ARCO and others on the ARCO fugitive dust management plan for its repository near Opportunity. Highlights from CFRTAC’s cover letter (PDF) on the comments on ARCO’s proposed management plan summarize the plan’s shortcomings:

The plan does not contain a clear or tangible commitment to prevent or respond to future dust events beyond whatever ARCO or its contractors may voluntarily choose to do.

It has not resulted in noticeable efforts or been noticeably effective in addressing ongoing dust events.

While improvement has been noticeable on streamside tailings areas in terms of application of BMPs, and communication efforts were noted, these actions do not in themselves constitute an adequate response to the larger issue of the dust problem.

And finally, it is the responsibility of the agencies to require ARCO to address this matter immediately and it is ARCO’s responsibility to present a real solution rather than additional reasons to allow fugitive dust to escape from its property.

The ARCO’s plan is available here (PDF) and along with CFRTAC’s review (PDF). The dust plan will be discussed at a community meeting on Sept. 28 (PDF).

September 21, 2006

At the Milltown Reservoir, the drawdown that was halted earlier this summer because of fish mortalities resumed September 18. The drawdown, which began on June 1, has lowered the reservoir roughly nine feet thus far and will continue at an inch or two per day until hitting the 10 to 11 foot mark, according to the EPA’s Diana Hammer.

In early July, the drawdown was stopped due to high mortalities in caged fish used by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists to monitor the cleanup’s impacts. FWP biologists have determined that a bacterial infection, likely caused by high water temperatures and stress from the turbid spring flows of the Clark Fork, caused the mortalities. With cooler weather and water temperatures, the EPA allowed the drawdown to start again. The FWP Department is continuing to monitor fish populations below the Milltown Dam. Likewise, the project’s water quality monitoring continues uninterrupted.

This drawdown, the first of three over the course of the project, allows Environ and the Army Corps of Engineers to start work on the site infrastructure and the bridge mitigation.
(For more on the drawdown, check out the Missoulian’s coverage.)

Road construction

And with little fanfare, trucks and heavy equipment rolled in to the Milltown Reservoir site last week to begin work related to the cleanup of the Superfund site. Last week saw the construction of access roads needed to reinforce the Blackfoot bridges in Milltown. Next up for the bridge work is jet grouting – a process in which cement is injected into a drill hole to form a column to bolster existing structures. That work is scheduled for the week of September 25.

Set to begin the same week is work on the dewatering pilot test for the Clark Fork River bypass channel. The pilot test will determine if the sediments and alluvium below them can be sufficiently dewatered. The test will involve the installation of a variety of wells and drains in a selected area along the footprint of the bypass channel and then pumping and/or monitoring those features to determine how well and easily the sediments and alluvium can be dewatered. Once the sediments are fully dewatered, a test pit will be excavated in the dewatered sediments. The test pit will essentially be a small section of the bypass channel to confirm that conventional earthmoving equipment can construct the bypass channel including the requirements for depth, slope angle, armoring and berm construction.

With work underway, the EPA has issued reminders that the job site at the reservoir is closed to the public for health and safety reasons for the duration of the cleanup.

September 21, 2006

The State’s Natural Resource Damage Program is seeking public comment on draft funding recommendations for restoration projects in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin. Check out the press release below for details.

HELENA – The state is seeking public comment on draft funding recommendations for projects designed to restore the Upper Clark Fork River Basin, Restoration Program chief Carol Fox announced Thursday.

The Governor’s Trustee Restoration Council has recommended that five grant proposals receive either full or partial funding totaling $5,046,940. Proposals are:

* Bonner Pedestrian Bridge Replacement – Recommended for full funding of $975,652.
* Butte Waterline – Year 6 recommended for full funding of $1,819,581; Year 7 not recommended for funding.
* Upper Little Blackfoot River Restoration – Recommended for partial funding of $216,044.
* Anaconda Waterline – Recommended for full funding of $1,964,263.
* Basin-wide Wetland/Riparian Mapping – Recommended for partial funding of $71,400.

The 30-day public comment period on these recommendations, detailed in the Draft 2006 Upper Clark Fork River Basin Restoration Work Plan (PDF 3.2MB), begins on September 7. The public may submit written comments or provide oral comments at the public hearing to be held at the Butte Red Lion, 2100 Cornell, on October 2 at 7 p.m. Written comments may be sent to the Natural Resource Damage Program, P.O. Box 201425, Helena, MT 59620-1425, faxed to 444-0236 or e-mailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The deadline for comments is October 10.

“It is important that the public have the opportunity to comment on these proposals and funding recommendations before the Governor makes his final decision,” Fox said. “In particular, we would like to hear what people think of an option for the Butte waterline project. We have the situation where all of the bids made under the competitive bidding process exceeded the available funding, so we are looking at allowing the waterline replacement work to be done in-house by Butte-Silver Bow.”

Based on the comments received over the next month, both the Advisory Council and Trustee Restoration Council will make final funding recommendations to Gov. Schweitzer, who is expected to make his funding decisions in December.

The state sued the Atlantic Richfield Co. in 1983 and settled several portions of the lawsuit in 1999, receiving $215 million. About $130 million is earmarked to restore or replace the injured natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin between Butte and Milltown Dam near Missoula.

The Natural Resource Damage Program within the Montana Department of Justice administers the grant program. Program staff and the Upper Clark Fork River Basin Remediation and Restoration Education Advisory Council reviewed this year’s proposals and made recommendations to the Governor’s Trustee Restoration Council. That council – made up of the governor’s chief of staff, the attorney general, the directors of the state’s three natural resource agencies and the chairman of the advisory council – approved the funding recommendations that are now subject to public comment. To date, the Governor has approved 50 projects for a total of $38 million.

CONTACT: Judy Beck, 444-5774; Lynn Solomon, 444-0582; Kathy Coleman, 444-0229

September 21, 2006

Two conferences next week (Sept. 25-29) will look at the law behind the Natural Resource Damage Program and the science of river restoration. The first is The Law of Ecosystem Restoration: National Policy Implications of the Clark Fork River Basin Natural Resource Damage Program. This conference will examine current NRD law and policy developments, as well as how this has played out in the Clark Fork River Basin.

The second conference, Assessing Stream Restoration Success: Developing Sustainable Ecological and Physical Systems, is hosted by the University of Montana’s Center for Riverine Science and Stream Re-naturalization. The two-day meeting will include daylong fieldtrips, four invited keynote presentations that address the physical, geochemical, and biological aspects of assessing stream restoration projects,
and a general poster session.

September 21, 2006

The Missoulian’s Entertainer recently featured a story on the collaborative effort of four Missoula museums that highlight historical, cultural and artistic aspects of the cleanup of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers. Two museums — the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula and the Montana Museum of Art and Culture, already feature Milltown-related exhibits, while two more are in the works, one at the UM’s Gallery of Visual Arts and the Missoula Art Museum. Read more about it here.

September 21, 2006

In August, water quality in the Clark Fork River below Milltown dam was monitored daily for turbidity (the “cloudiness” of the water), and weekly for suspended sediment, metals, and arsenic. Upstream sites on the Blackfoot River and on the Clark Fork at Turah were also monitored weekly for metals, arsenic, and sediment. The reservoir level was not lowered during the month – the drawdown that began June 1 remained between 8.5 and 9 feet, depending on river flows.

Turbidity and sediment levels below Milltown Dam remained low, along with very low river flows throughout the month. Levels of dissolved metals and arsenic were also low and typical of the levels usually seen in the river at this time of year. All parameters were well below the applicable water quality standards.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks monitored the condition caged fish in six locations in the Blackfoot, Clark Fork and Bitterroot Rivers between July 11 and August 4. Because of very high stream temperatures, agency biologists saw a tremendous amount of mortality, and this appeared to be related to high water temperature and the resulting low dissolved oxygen (caused by high temperatures). The Bitterroot River near the mouth and the Alberton location had the highest water temperatures and lowest dissolved oxygen, and 100% of the caged fish died in these locations. Typically, the Milltown site had the highest dissolved oxygen. Death rates of caged fish in the Blackfoot, on the Clark Fork at Turah (above the dam) and at Milltown (below the dam) were similar – up to a quarter of the caged fish died in these locations.

FWP is also tracking wild fish by radio telemetry on a weekly basis, and during this period saw no major movement and no mortality. The caged fish experiments will be deployed again this September at the 5 locations (Turah, Blackfoot, Milltown, Bitterroot, and Alberton) once the drawdown resumes. FWP will monitor these changes through February- similar to last year.

And a reminder: if you see one of the cages, please don’t disturb it. These cages supply critical information for monitoring effects of the Milltown project.

September 1, 2006

Community at the Confluence (PDF) will be held at the Picnic Shelter by the Milltown Dam on Sunday, September 17 from 12:30 - 4:30. Admission is free.

Share an afternoon of history as Salish Tribal members reflect on the “Place of the Big Bull Trout;” Fish, Wildlife and Parks presents the life of the bull trout; and NorthWestern Energy hosts tours of the Milltown Dam Powerhouse. Join in the creation of the Community at the Confluence mural. Enjoy the music of LP and the Federales and have lunch at the confluence sold by the Bonner School Close Up students and Friends of Two Rivers.

The historic cleanup of the Milltown Reservoir is beginning and you can learn more about it at the Info Fair featuring displays by EPA, the Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP), Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ); US Fish & Wildlife Service; the Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee (CFRTAC); Envirocon; Fish, Wildlife & Parks; the Milltown Superfund Site Redevelopment Working Group, plus the Montana Natural History Center, Historical Museum @ Fort Missoula, Missoula Art Museum, and the Museum of Art and Culture.

In case of bad weather, the event will move to Bonner School.

Sponsored by the Friends of Two Rivers, the Milltown Superfund Site Redevelopment Working Group, and Bonner School. For more information call Mary Erickson (258-6930 evenings) or Judy Matson (258-6335) or visit the Friends of Two Rivers website.

September 1, 2006

Fish, Wildlife and Parks has closed the area around the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers in anticipation of the start of work on the Milltown Reservoir cleanup. Closures on the Clark Fork River start about one half mile below the dam and go three miles above it. The Blackfoot closure starts at the confluence and covers the first mile-and-a-half upstream. Closed areas will be signed. Check out FWP’s press release or EPA’s postcard .

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