Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Summer 2010 Restoration Around the Clark Fork Basin


While the EPA Five-Year Review of Butte Superfund sites continues, reclamation and restoration work is still ongoing in the area. At the top of the Butte hill near Walkerville construction will be completed in 2010 on the Granite Mountain Memorial Interpretive Area. The Memorial itself is being expanded, and an already partially-completed trail will connect that area to the greater uptown Butte trail system. This new trail will provide the public with access to the historic Foreman’s Park near the Mountain Con mine yard.

Monitoring of stormwater and groundwater is also ongoing to insure that metals and other mining contaminants from the Butte hill do not recontaminate the restored Silver Bow Creek. New groundwater monitoring wells are being installed near the historic Silver Bow Creek channel, commonly known as the Metro Storm Drain, and also in Lower Area One on the west side of the Butte, where treatment lagoons capture contaminated groundwater and surface water to prevent contamination from reaching Silver Bow Creek.

Beyond 2010 the Metro Storm Drain and Lower Area One treatment lagoons will be evaluated; best management practices for stormwater will be implemented; the Butte Reclamation Evaluation System will continue to monitor capped mine dumps on the Butte hill to ensure that historic mine wastes are not spreading; and the voluntary Residential Metals Abatement Program will continue to assist residents in assessing and removing historic wastes present in Butte homes.

Work also continues on the restoration of Silver Bow Creek. Through the summer, crews are removing mine waste and restoring the creek through Durant Canyon and near Fairmont Hot Springs.
Above: A restored reach of Silver Bow Creek near Butte shows a developing riparian plant community.
Above: An unrestored reach of Silver Bow Creek near Anaconda has little vegetation along the streambank due to the presence of mine tailings; these acid and heavy metal-laden soils prevent most plants from growing. This reach is slated for restoration in the next 1-2 years.


A lot of clean-up is underway in Anaconda, including reclamation north of Warm Springs Creek near the Galen Highway; clean-up of the Airport property; and Montana DEQ will begin reclamation on Stucky Ridge. Clean-up also continues along rail lines and rail yards.

In 2010, EPA will begin the fourth Five-Year Review of the Anaconda Smelter site. Reviews address portions of the site where remedial construction has been completed and where EPA has determined the remedy is operational and functional.

Next door at Opportunity, management continues at the BP-Arco Waste Repository.
The site, formerly the Opportunity Ponds, was a tailings repository for the Anaconda Smelter. It covers an area of over five square miles, with deposits of mine waste averaging about 20 feet deep. Due to that considerable volume of contamination, wastes removed from elsewhere in the Clark Fork Basin are transported to the Opportunity Ponds site. Topsoils are then revegetated to reduce erosion.

During the five-year review of Anaconda sites, EPA and DEQ welcome public comments regarding Anaconda-area work, and comments may help to determine recommendations for the future. Citizens may send written comments through May 28 to:

Charlie Coleman
Remedial Project Manager
10 West 15th Street, Suite 3200
Helena, MT 59626; or

John Brown
Superfund Project Officer
P.O. Box 200901
Helena, MT 59620-0901.

Milltown Area

At the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers, the last trainload of contaminated sediments left the Milltown site on September 24, 2009. Work still continues at the site to restore the historic stream channel. The Clark Fork River is currently diverted until that work can be completed. Once that work is done, restoration of the greater confluence site will begin.

The Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee (CFRTAC) has a wealth of additional information on their website at http://www.cfrtac.org/.

Checking In with Clark Fork Ecosystems
and Spring Field Season Photos

CFWEP’s spring field season started off cold and windy, but things have been warming nicely. So far, CFWEP has collected field data with four Butte area schools: Butte Central, Fred Moodry Middle School, Ramsay Middle School, and East Middle School.

Fred Moodry Middle School sampled water chemistry, vegetation, macroinvertebrates and soil from Silver Bow Creek near Anaconda (a mining-impacted site) and from the unimpacted Warm Springs Creek in Anaconda. The students findings were striking. For example, the conductivity at the impacted site was twice as high as the unimpacted site, indicating that there were more dissolved particles at that location on Silver Bow Creek. Both sites had a high diversity of macroinvertebrates, but only unimpacted Warm Springs Creek had stonefly and mayfly larvae, which are the most sensitive indicators of healthy streams. The students found a high diversity of vegetation at the unimpacted site, with a healthy mix of ground cover, understory and over story, while the impacated site vegetation habitat consisted of tailings, bare ground and pollution tolerant plants. All of the students clearly enjoyed their field trips, and kudos to them for braving sometimes wet, windy, cold conditions to do science.

Below are photos from various winter-spring 2010 field trips and education projects.

Butte students help to improve the Butte stormwater system that discharges into Silver Bow Creek.

Students visit the Kalsta Ranch on the Big Hole River on a recent field trip.

Students from Bonner visit the Berkeley Pit as part of a field trip to Butte.

Anaconda students visit the BP-Arco Waste Repository, formerly known as the Opportunity Ponds.

NRDP Funds Proposed for New Projects

The State of Montana’s Natural Resource Damages Program (NRDP) administers Clark Fork restoration settlement funds through an annual grant process. Montana's governor makes the final funding decisions on grant projects. The UCFRB Remediation and Restoration Advisory Council advises the governor on the restoration process and funding. To date, NRDP has funded 91 projects that help make the basin's natural resources healthy and provide opportunities for the public to enjoy these resources. The NRDP has been a major funder of CFWEP.

The following projects are proposed for funding in 2010, listed by applicant and project name, followed by a short project description and project costs requested from NRDP and other sources:
  • Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, Anaconda System-wide Metering Project: Install water meters on all 2,642 un-metered water system connections over 2 years to achieve system-wide metering, conserve water supply, and replace lost groundwater resources.
    NRDP funding: $3,622,708. Other funding: $253,961.
  • Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, Anaconda Waterline – Year 9: Replace 12,200 feet of leaking waterline in Anaconda. This is the 9th year of continuing waterline replacement projects.
    NRDP funding: $2,644,390. Other funding: $220,386.
  • Butte-Silver Bow, Big Hole River Pump Station Replacement Project: Replace the deteriorated Big Hole Pump Station, which is part of the Big Hole water system that supplies drinking water to Butte.
    NRDP funding: $3,500,000. Other funding: $500,000.
  • Butte-Silver Bow, Big Hole Transmission Line – Year 4: Replace 20,000 feet of the leaking Big Hole Transmission Line, which supplies drinking water to Butte. This is the 4th year of a continuing waterline replacement project.
    NRDP funding: $2,760,000. Other funding: $690,000.
  • Butte-Silver Bow, Butte Waterline – Year 10: Replace 13,000 feet of leaking waterline in Butte and install 500 meters in un-metered homes. This is the 10th year of a continuing waterline replacement project and the 2nd year of voluntary meter installations.
    NRDP funding: $1,817,546. Other funding: $201,950.
  • Clark Fork Coalition, Racetrack Creek Flow Restoration Project: Secure the right to maintain and enhance in-stream flow for the benefit of the fishery resource of Racetrack Creek, a tributary of the Upper Clark Fork River.
    NRDP funding: $500,000. Other funding: $515,000.
  • Deer Lodge Conservation District, 2010 Native Plant Materials: Continue to select and market superior-performing native plant materials well adapted to the conditions of mining-impacted areas in the UCFRB and provide certified seed and plants to commercial seed growers and conservation seedling nurseries (4 year project).
    NRDP funding: $252,279. Other funding: $81,000.
  • East Ridge Foundation with U.S. Forest Service, Maud S Canyon Trails and Open Space Project: Increase recreational opportunities by conducting land acquisition, land reclamation, and trail development activities in Maud S Canyon east of Butte.
    NRDP funding: $355,920. Other funding: $132,295.
  • Rocky Mountain Supercomputing Centers, Inc., Knowledge Resource Mining in the UCFRB: Develop a “tool” that will allow for immediate access to and analysis of the data collected in the UCFRB over the years by various entities using a GIS-user interface and provide links to the governing documents with that data.
    NRDP funding: $376,160. Other funding: $66,815.
  • Skyline Sports and Butte-Silver Bow, Children’s Fishing Pond/Hillcrest Open Space Project: Develop a children’s fishing pond, repair the riparian and upland areas, create an outdoor educational component, and develop trails in the Hillcrest open space area east of
    NRDP funding: $1,566,998. Other funding: $770,136.
  • The University of Montana (Flathead Lake Biological Station and Montana Tech), Restoration, Nutrients, and Green River Bottoms: Initiate and conduct monitoring over 2 years to evaluate the relationships between nutrients, algae and macrophytes, and river processes that produce and consume oxygen along restored and unaltered portions of the Upper Clark Fork River.
    NRDP funding: $268,367. Other funding: $73,826.
  • Watershed Restoration Coalition, 2010 Cottonwood Creek: Improve aquatic and riparian habitat in lower Cottonwood Creek by increasing in-stream flows, improving fish passage, and enhancing riparian habitat.
    NRDP funding: $289,647. Other funding: $169,484.

Additionally, there are currently two proposals for uses of NRDP funds outside of the normal grant process. The first is for the roughly $17 million purchase by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) of the 28,000 acre Spotted Dog Ranch near Deer Lodge. Funding for the proposed aquisition would come from the principal balance of the NRDP account, known as the Upper Clark Fork River Basin Restoration Fund. Under public ownership, the ranch would become a Wildlife Management Area.

Also being considered is a proposal to fund a new museum dedicted to mining, reclamation and culture in Butte. Estimates vary, but roughly $30-40 million dollars of the restoration principal is being considered for the museum.

Funded or not, these two proposals will have a significant impact on future management of Clark Fork restoration dollars. As of Oct. 1, 2009, the restoration fund had a balance of $170 million, with about $48 million of that cash already committed to approved grant projects but not yet spent. In other words, if funded, these two projects combined would spend out roughly a third of the restoration fund principal.

Southwest Montana Science Partnership Update

Above: Teachers in the SMSP learn about Montana landscapes with geologist Dick Gibson atop the Alice Hill in Walkerville.

The Southwest Montana Science Partnership (SMSP) program welcomed our second Cohort of 3rd - 6th grade teachers in January. Teachers in Cohort II are rapidly moving through the SMSP modules, and have completed mapping, landforms and soils to date. Cohort I teachers completed a snow study module led by Dr. Delena Norris-Tull and a birds module led by Dr. Andrea Stierle. Both cohorts will be together this summer for a module on plants, flowers, and trees and a second module on aquatic macroinvertebrates. Additionally, CFWEP is working to make online SMSP modules available for free to all teachers via www.cfwep.org as they are completed by the SMSP participating teachers.

The SMSP project is funded by a ESEA, Title II Part B Mathematics and Science Partnership Grant through the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

Bulltrout, The Blackfoot River & Milltown

While the last sediments contaminated by historic mine waste were shipped by rail away from the former Milltown Dam site at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers near the end of 2009, much work remains to be done at the site. There are still roughly 4 million cubic yards of mining contaminated sediments left behind at the site. These additional contaminants were left because the removal of the dam and saturate sediments left them high and dry, where likelihood of them ever becoming entrained in the river or contaminating the groundwater is slim to nothing.

An April 11 article in The Missoulian described the concerns of some local residents regarding the impact on native bull trout from work at the site. Concerns for bull trout stem from work on the piers that support the Interstate 90 overpass over the Blackfoot, just before it joins with the Clark Fork. The Clark Fork River is currently diverted into a side channel running near I-90 while crews continue reclamation and restoration of the natural stream channel. This situation has caused the Blackfoot, as it flows under I-90, to narrow, and water velocity speeds up as a result. Some Bonner residents are concerned that this will make it difficult for bull trout to navigate.

Above: The diverted Clark Fork River now flows through an artificial channel near I-90 while crews continue to restore the historic floodplain and river channel.

Bull trout were listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998. The bulls are a sensitive species that do not tolerate high sediment levels in their spawning streams. Many Upper Clark Fork tributaries are considered spawning streams for bulls. The Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering a proposal to increase the amount of land considered critical habitat for bull trout, noting that “Bull trout depend on cold, clear water and are excellent indicators of water quality. Protecting and restoring their habitat contributes to the water quality of rivers and lakes throughout the Northwest.”

Pat Saffel, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) fisheries manager for the region, has said that no immediate action is necessary. Fish passage at the overpass is typically only an issue during short periods of high flow. When the water level comes back down, the fish can navigate the narrow, rapid channel. The EPA is currently reviewing the issue, and FWP is monitoring fish populations in the area to better understand the effects of the removal of the Milltown Dam.

Short-term impacts related to the reclamation and restoration of the old reservoir site may harm fish, but the long-term effects of the dam removal are likely to be very beneficial to the fishery, outweighing the short-term negatives. More remedial and redevelopment work remain in the Milltown cleanup project, which is expected to end in 2011. Once all is said and done, the connectivity of the Clark Fork Basin will be greatly improved, giving native fish like the bull and cutthroat trout increased opportunities to find suitable habitat and spawning grounds in the numerous Upper Clark Fork tributary streams and creeks.

Rolling Stones Fundraiser for the
River Rat Fly Fishing & Conservation Camp

To raise funds for the summer 2010 River Rat Camp for area youth, we are selling "Rolling Stones" stonefly t-shirts for a $15.00 donation. CFWEP hats are also still available for a $20.00 donation. To order:

1. Use the "Donate Now" button at www.cfwep.org - any donation of $15.00 gets you a "Rolling Stones" t-shirt, and any donation of $20.00 or over gets you a CFWEP hat. Send an email to jringsak@mtech.edu. In the body of the message, indicate your preference (green, orange, light green, blue, offwhite, winter) for hats or size preference (M, L, XL, 2XL) for shirts.

2. You can also order by mail. Simply send your donation (checks should be made out to "Montana Tech Foundation" with "CFWEP" in the memo line) and color or size preference to:

CFWEP, Attn: Membership
Montana Tech - Outreach Dept
1300 W Park St
Butte, MT 59701

Expect to receive your gift in the mail in a few days. We will see you on the river!

Spring 2010 CFWEP Acknowledgments

CFWEP would like to acknowledge the following new members, volunteers and contributors. Their support and assistance makes our work possible:
Kathryn Watson & the Montana Watercourse; Jenny Wilson; Janel Evans; Chris Doyle; Karen Gillespie; Dina Alibrahim; Joe Griffin (DEQ); Doug Martin (NRDP); Kathy Coleman (NRDP); Colleen Elliott (MBMG); Andrea & Don Stierle; Gary Swant; Samantha Sheble; Lisa Sullivan; Lori Shyba; Sandra McNair; Rick Larson, Jack Henry, Tawni Cleverly, Doug Sanderson, Nate Gelling & Butte-Silver Bow County; Marisa Pedulla; Michelle Anderson; Angela Smith & the Washoe Fish Hatchery; Jeanne Larson; Jeremy Weber; Theresa Rader; Montana Environmental Education Association; Marilyn and Bob Olson (Embroidery Plus); Digger Athletic Association; Montana Tech Foundation; George Goody (Montana Fly Company); Chris Bradley & Mike Marcum (The Stonefly Fly Shop); Bill Callaghan; Misty Cerise Cunningham; Chris Kellogg; Mike Bader; Kristina Smucker; Rich Prodgers (Bighorn Environmental); Tim Reilly (DEQ); Jeremey Whitlock; Carlton Nelson; Meriwether Ranch; Wallace J. Nichols (bluemarbles.org); Dick Berg and John Foley (MBMG/Mineral Museum); Almetek Industries; Marko Lucich (Butte Chamber); City of Deer Lodge and Powell County; Jason Smith (Grant Kohrs Ranch); Holiday Inn Express (Butte); George Grant TU; Keri Petritz; Beverly Plumb; Atlas Obscura; Ken Brockman (Bureau of Reclamation); Atlantic Richfield Corporation; Erik Kalsta and Jami Murdoch; Tucker Transportation; Debbie Kearns (The Hitchin’ Post in Melrose); Michelle Anderson; Ray Brandl; Chad Buck; Pat Cunneen (NRDP); Chris Gammons; Jim Gleason (TU); Doug Joppa; Raj Kasanath; Byron Mazurek; Abbie Philips; Sara Rouse; Christine Talley; Shane Talley; Karen Wesenberg-Ward; and all those who helped out with field trips, classroom activities, teacher workshops, and events in winter and spring 2010!

Above: A long-billed curlew flies over the BP-Arco Waste Repository, formerly the Opportunity Ponds, near Anaconda.