Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Milltown Dam Education Program field trip

Meet Bethany Taylor, a University of Montana graduate student in Environmental Studies. Bethany, who is pursuing the writing option within the EVST program, is one of seven U of M students working with CFWEP to lead its Milltown Dam Education Program in the Missoula area and Anaconda schools this year. Bethany and the other UM students are guided by CFWEP and also under the skillful eye of Dr. Vicki Watson.
Ms. Taylor, a New Hampshire native, will be a guest Waterblogger over the next several months. We hope you enjoy her account of Carlton Nelson's class field trip from earlier this winter. Mr. Nelson's class came to the Milltown site after being the first class group to visit the BP-ARCO waste repository, or commonly known as the Opportunity Ponds.

“I wonder if this is what aliens would do to us…” was one comment overheard as Mr. Carlton Nelson’s seventh graders from Anaconda’s Fred Moodry Middle School poked and prodded at macroinvertebrates on a recent CFWEP field trip to the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers near Milltown Dam.

The Anaconda field trip was the last one facilitated by CFWEP this fall, and it seemed to the facilitators as if the best had been saved for last—these students were across the board engaged, informed, and did a great deal to counteract the “bad rap” that middle-school students often unfairly receive. Despite chilly temperatures, the students all maintained good attitudes and demonstrated a clear understanding of the various ways one can assess river health, and why in particular, Montanans should know about the status of these two rivers. In fact, the Anaconda students have better reason to know about the health of the rivers and the clean-up than most—the Opportunity Ponds where the contaminated sediment is consolidated is pretty close to their backyards.

Not that their proximity to toxic waste seemed to dampen the Anaconda students enthusiasm for studying the rivers in any way. The day before the field trip to the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers in Bonner and Missoula, the students had been taken to Opportunity to see the former tailings ponds, now referred to as the BP-ARCO repository. That was deemed “pretty cool” by most of the students—with the exception of one kid who was wearing shorts that day and wasn’t allowed off the bus. “We’re the only kids who’ve gotten to see those ponds,” several students said.

Active involvement seems to be the key to getting students to retain interest and absorb scientific concepts and data. The site CFWEP uses on the Blackfoot River is on a big gravel bar. Due to recent rains and snow, then snowmelt from the mountains, the river had changed its course and come right through the gravel bar with a 15-foot wide channel. While this created some interesting logistical challenges, including a longer trek than usual from the bus to the site in the chilly morning, what was more interesting was having an active example of recent geomorphology.

We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about how rivers are active ecosystems, but even comparing data collected two weeks before the Anaconda trip showed a different river. The underscored the importance of record keeping, which made perhaps a few more cold fingers wiggle out of their mittens to record data on the water chemistry, the geomorphology, the macroinvertebrates, and the riparian vegetation. The combination of these studies amounted to giving the two rivers a full physical exam, and then comparing the data to determine the health of the rivers.

In general, the Anaconda students found that the two rivers were in good shape. Perhaps more importantly, the students had fun, and learned how to apply lessons from their science classes and CFWEP lectures to reality. They also got to learn new things.

“The coolest thing I learned is that plants that grow along the river steal oxygen from the river at night,” said an enthusiastic Aly Bisch. She and her friends were at the water chemistry station, possibly the favorite station of the Anaconda students, although they were interested, involved, and informed at all four. If these are the entomologists, water chemists, geomorphologists and riparian ecologists of the future, the health of these rivers are in good, if heavily-mittened, hands.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Data from Anaconda - 7th Grade Fieldtrip (May 15, 2008)

On May 15, 2008, the students from Bob Orrino's class in Anaconda went on a CFWEP Fieldtrip. They visited the following two sites: an less-impacted site (Warm Springs Creek at Washoe Park); and an impacted site (Silver Bow Creek at Fairmont Crackerville Road). Below is a summary/average of the data gathered during the fieldtrip.

Warm Springs Creek at Washoe Park (Less-Impacted)
Warm Spring Creek at Washoe Park is located behind the fish hatchery.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to Warm Springs Creek, the air temperature was about 14 degrees Celsius, and the water temperature was about 9.10 degrees Celsius according to the data gathered at the site. The temperatures were measured using GLX Probes. The pH readings of the creek showed that the creek was slightly basic on the day of the fieldtrip. The dissolved oxygen was about 16 mg/l. Concentrations of Iron and Nitrates were measured using test strips. The Iron concentration was about 0.05 ppm and the Nitrate concentration was about 0.63 ppm.

Vegetation - The vegetation in the riparian area consisted of mostly grasses with some small trees located about 20 feet of the river.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance score for this area was 30, which means the water quality is excellent. The top three most popular macro-invertebrates were Mayflies, Stoneflies, and Caddisflies.

Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont (Impacted)
Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Farimont is classified as residential, agricultural, partially urban/partially rural, and is a Superfund site. The area has been impacted by development, mining, agriculture (stock watering/crossing, irrigation/diversion), vegetation removal/maintenance, and remediation/restoration.

Water Chemistry - During the site visit the air temperature was 22 degrees Celsius and the water was approximately 12 degrees Celsius. The dissolved oxygen was measured at 20 mg/l and the turbidity was measured at 300 NTU. The iron and nitrates concentrations were 0.10 ppm and 1.63 ppm respectively.

Vegetation - The main vegetation in the area consisted of grasses, forbs, and trees.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance index score calculated during the fieldtrip was 25. This suggests that the water quality of the creek is excellent. The top three macro-invertebrates seen were Snipeflies, Caddisflies, and Midges.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Data from East Middle School - 7th Grade Fieldtrip (May 9, 2008)

On May 9th, 2008, the students of East Middle School, Karen Alley's 7th Grade class went on a CFWEP fieldtrip. They visited the following two sites: a less-impacted site (Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park); and an impacted site (Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont). Below is a summary/average of the data gathered during the fieldtrip.

Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park (Less-Impacted)
Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park is classified as a residential, recreational, and urban area that has been impacted by mining, remediation, illegal dumping, and development.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to the Blacktail Creek site, the weather was cold and wet. The air temperature was approximately 7.85 degrees Celsius, and the water temperature was approximately 5.50 degrees Celsius. The pH of the stream indicated that is was neutral. The dissolved oxygen was 7.75 mg/l and the turbidity was 5.40 NTU. The copper concentration of the stream was about 4.81 ppm.

Vegetation - Most of the vegetation consisted of tall and short grasses. The short grasses ranged from right next to the stream to about 40 feet from the stream. The tall grasses ranged from 5 feet from the stream to 50 feet from the stream. The ground was about 5% bare with the rest being covered by vegetation.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance index for this site was 12. This score indicates that the water quality was fair.

Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont (Impacted)
Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont is classified as residential, agricultural, partially urban/partially rural, and is a Superfund site. The area has been impacted by development, mining, agriculture (stock watering/crossing, irrigation/diversion), vegetation removal/maintenance, and remediation/restoration.

Water Chemistry - During the visit the Silver Bow Creek the air temperature was 5.22 degrees Celsius, and the water temperature was 5.41 degrees Celsius. The dissolved oxygen was 11.8 mg/l and the turbidity was 9.88 NTU. The concentrations of copper, iron, and nitrates were not tested for.

Vegetation - The vegetation near the stream consisted of both short grasses and tall grasses with some shrubs present. The ground cover is mostly bare, with about a 40% cover from vegetation.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance index for this site was 9. This score indicates that the water quality was poor.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Data from Philipsburg - 7th and 8th Grade Field Trip (May 1, 2008)

On May 1, 2008, the students from Mr. Christopher Robinson's class in Philipsburg went on a CFWEP fieldtrip. They visited the following two sites: Flint Creek Campground and Douglas Creek. Below is a summary/average of the data gathered during the fieldtrip.

Flint Creek Campground, Philipsburg
Flint Creek Campground is classified as a recreational park, urban (highways), rural (dirtroads), and national forest land site that has been impacted by logging.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to the Flint Creek Campground site the air temperature was recorded at 1.07 degrees Celsius and the water temperature was recorded at 3.05 degrees Celsius. Based on the pH values, the stream seems to be neutral or slightly basic. The stream was not tested for copper, but it was tested for iron and nitrates and no concentrations were detected.

Vegetation - The common plants seen in both the riparian area and upland area were conifer trees. In the upland area Knapweed and Mullen were spotted. Most of the ground cover for both the riparian area and upland area are grasses.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The average pollution tolerance index was calculated to be 34. The top three macro invertebrates seen during the fieldtrip were Caddisflies, Mayflies, and Black Flies.

Soil Assessment - The soil texture is mostly loamy sand and is slightly acidic.

Douglas Creek
Douglas Creek is classified as a residential, urban (highways), rural (dirt roads), and Superfund/Environmental site impacted by development and mining.

Water Chemistry - During the site visit to Douglas Creek, the air temperature was 6.10 degrees Celsius and the water temperature was 4.20 degrees Celsius. Based on the pH data gathered, the stream was close to neutral. Copper concentrations were not recorded for this site; however, iron and nitrate concentrations were tested for and there was no detection of either element.

Vegetation - The common vegetation seen in both the upland area and riparian area were conifer, cottonwoods, and grasses. Knapweed was spotted in the upland area. The main source of the ground cover were weeds and grasses.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance index was calculated to be 18, with Caddisflies being the most popular macro invertebrate seen during the field trip.

Soil Assessment - The soil is most like silty clay and based on the pH readings is neutral.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Data From East Middle School - 7th Grade Field Trip (April 25th, 2008)

An April, 25, 2008, the students of East Middle School, Kathy Foley's 7th Grade class went on a CFWEP Fieldtrip. They visited the following two sites; a less-impacted site (Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park); and an impacted site (Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont). Below is a summary/average of the data gathered during the fieldtrip.

Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park (Less-Impacted)
Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park is classified as a residential, recreational, urban area that has been impacted by mining, remediation, illegal dumping, and development.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to the Blacktail Creek site, the weather was cloudy. The air temperature was recorded at 45 degrees Celsius, and the water temperature was recorded at approximately 3.65 degree Celsius. The dissolved oxygen and turbidity were 10.34 mg/l and 4.58 NTU respectively. The creek was not tested for copper concentrations, but the iron and nitrate concentrations were 0.15 ppm and 0.97 ppm respectively.

Vegetation - For the vegetation assessment, the common vegetation in the riparian area consisted of willows. While in the upland area the common vegetation recorded were aspens, along with some sagebrush. Thistles were spotted in both the riparian area and the upland area. Most of the ground cover consisted of grasses and shrubs in both the riparian area and upland area.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The average pollution tolerance index score for this site was 14. The top three macro invertebrates found at the site were blood midges, beetles, and worms.

Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont (Impacted)
Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont is classified as residential, agricultural, partially urban/partially rural, and is a Superfund site. The area had been impacted by development, mining, agriculture (stock watering/crossing, irrigation/diversion), vegetation removal/maintenance, and remediation/restoration.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to Silver Bow Creek, the air temperature was measure to be 3.20 degrees Celsius, and the creek temperature was measured to be 3.97 degrees Celsius. The dissolved oxygen and conductivity were 11.33 mg/l and 355.67 uS/cm respectively. The copper concentration was measure at 13.30 ppm, along with the nitrate concentration measured at 2.00 ppm. The concentration of iron was not measured.

Vegetation - The common vegetation in the riparian area was tufted hair grass. Spotted knapweed and cheat grass made up the majority of noxious weeds. The overall plant community was contaminated.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance index score was calculated to be 16. The top three macro invertebrates found at the site were snipeflies, caddisflies, and craneflies.

Monday, November 10, 2008

New Montana Student Riparian/Wetland Project: A Letter to Principals and Science Teachers from Middle School Teacher Eric Vincent

Eric Vincent November 3, 2008
Holy Spirit Catholic School
2820 Central Ave. Great Falls, MT 59401

RE: Montana Student Riparian/Wetland Project

To: Principal and Science Teacher(s)

Hello, my name is Eric Vincent. I am a middle school teacher at Holy Spirit School in Great Falls, and represent a group of students involved in an innovative project that seeks to repair and sustain threatened riparian and wetland areas across the beautiful state of Montana. Working in conjunction with agencies such as the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council, Assistant State Conservationist, Montana Wetlands Legacy Partnership, Dept. of Fish Wildlife and Parks, and others, the group is developing an effective, feasible method of involving students across the state in helping to protect the wetland and riparian areas of Montana.

According to the Montana Audubon Society, “Less than 2% of Montana is comprised of wetlands, yet 50% of bird species depend on these important areas,” and another 75% of the state’s plant and animal diversity can be found at riparian sites. In addition to being a critical habitat for birds and other wildlife, wetlands assist in water purification and flood control. Current estimates state that half of the U.S. wetland areas have disappeared over the past two centuries. Sadly, 100,000 acres of wetlands in America are destroyed annually. To ensure these crucial habitats thrive, it is vital that we each get involved in our local area to physically mend our environment, while educating others along the way. Community grassroots initiatives such as ours can be one of the most effective methods of making a real difference, and we believe Montana’s youth are the right individuals for the challenge.

The plan goes something like this: Schools across Montana (every high school and middle school, over 400) are being asked to create “Riparian Repair Teams” that consist of 5-15 students—theoretically one school could have several teams. Once established, each team would be designated a riparian or wetland site close to their physical location and would be asked to visit this location one to two times a year to provide necessary improvements to the site; partnering and sponsoring agencies will identify the area, threat, and action required by each team, while we would participate in and help coordinate the efforts. Typical duties of a “Repair Team” may include: monitoring water quality and/or fish and bird populations, eliminating noxious weeds, planting native plants, or perhaps even assisting in river bank restoration. The idea is that each site will be assigned multiple teams, thereby requiring a team to commit to only one visit per year. Our goal is to have a working calendar by spring of 2009.

We believe the plan is both simple, and effective, and highlights the old adage, “Many hands make light work.” We ask you to please join us in this endeavor by saying YES to restoring and preserving our wetlands, and YES to creating your own local Riparian Repair Team. Let Montana serve as the flagship to a program that, we hope, will be instituted in every state in America.

NAME OF RIPARIAN REPAIR TEAM__________________________________________________

NAME OF SCHOOL___________________________________________________


NAME OF CONTACT__________________________________________________




_____________________ ____________________

_____________________ ____________________

_____________________ ____________________

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Feel free to add any comments:

Many Thanks! On behalf of Delanie, Mikaela, Mckenna, Laura, Lane, and Eric

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Westslope trout found in Restored Silver Bow Creek

In the restoration of Silver Bow Creek,
the word “progress” can be essentially defined with the recent capture of two native Westslope cutthroat trout in its flows this October. While barely enough to fill one fisherman’s stomach (if keeping westslopes were legal, of course), the presence of these two fish speaks volumes to the likelihood that a stream long-revered as one of the West’s most contaminated waterways has hope in establishing a future fishery, if things continue down the same, right path.

It’s noteworthy to mention that while the trout found in the creek this fall are certainly remarkable, the ongoing and previous restoration across the floodplain has been very successful to date, most notably judged by the exceptional increase in vegetation diversity and the presence of various waterfowl, shore and song birds, deer, moose, and even elk frequenting the area. What is particularly significant about the discovery of the two Westslopes during the annual electrofishing count on Silver Bow Creek is that they were collected in a location several miles away from the closest “clean” tributary supporting a healthy Westslope population.

In the past, brook trout have been found during the annual fisheries monitoring, but never Westslopes, and what’s more, never so far away from one of the uncontaminated tributaries, like Browns Gulch and German Gulch creeks. Westslope cutthroat can serve as an “umbrella species” in an ecosystem – if there are Westslope cutthroat trout thriving, then everything else in the ecosystem must be relatively well too – another piece of evidence that all is going as planned in the ultimate restoration of Silver Bow Creek.
This is exciting news as the project moves closer to completion (the remediation and restoration of Silver Bow Creek is now expected to be finished by the end of 2011). It’s also important news in light of some recent monitoring data that shows metals recontamination occurring in some of the upper reaches of the restored stream. Greg Mullen, the restoration project manager for the Natural Resource Damage Program, stated the following in light of the recent trout findings: “Once the wastewater treatment plant (Butte’s Metro Sewer municipal sewage treatment plant, which discharges high volumes of nutrient-laden water to the creek) is cleaned up, then we should see more trout in Silver Bow Creek.”

Perhaps the biggest thing for the public and others to remember when judging restoration projects of this magnitude is that it takes a significant amount of time for a stream to return to an uncontaminated condition after more than a century of intense abuse and misuse. The remediation and restoration of Silver Bow Creek started in 1999; it wasn’t until 2008 that the first native trout were found swimming in its restored reaches. One of the remedial goals of the project from the mid-1990s was to reestablish a self-sustaining native Westslope fishery in Silver Bow Creek. Well, it’s nine years later and we’re getting there.

In restoration, it’s the destination, not so much the journey, that needs our greatest attention. There are lots of ups and downs along the way, but keep in mind that the end of the road will take us to a better, cleaner place.

Another good example and case for this reminder is the Milltown Dam and Sediments Removal remediation and restoration project, 120 miles downstream at the Clark Fork’s confluence with the Blackfoot River. With the breaching of the dam last March, there has been a significant amount of sediment, some containing arsenic, that washed downstream of the project, allegedly impacting the middle Clark Fork fishery and macroinvertebrate populations, not to mention the reservoir at Thompson Falls another 100 miles downstream. Regardless of these short-term impacts, the important thing to remember again is that restoration takes time.
The Clark Fork-Blackfoot confluence has been hidden and contaminated behind and beneath the Milltown Dam and Reservoir for 100 years. This integral link between big river ecosystems was just reconnected in March of 2008 and while there are some short-term impacts that might not be as positive as we’d like to see, there are thousands and thousands of fish and their future generations already much, much happier, even in the murk of some extra sediments.

Of course it would be foolish not to look closer at short-term data that shows problems, especially if the problems are ones that can and need to be addressed. The data showing recontamination of restored Silver Bow Creek tells that there is still significant work left to be done on the Butte Hill; the Milltown sediments loading since the breaching signifies that additional erosion and sediment control measures may need to be in place before the Spring 2009 runoff. But it’s just as foolish for one to expect that fragile and complex ecological systems like those being restored are going to improve overnight or, likewise, to sound the alarm of failure at the earliest signs of negative data. Again, not to belabor the point, it took our predecessors more than a century to put this watershed in the condition that required the current cleanup; it is certainly possible that it could take decades before things are fully restored, depending on the definition of restoration.

But the rewards of a revitalized watershed are as great as any mother lode.
Who knows? Maybe in some of our lifetimes, the trout swimming in Silver Bow Creek might be the same trout that swam past the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork to spawn.

The Salish-Kootenai and Pend d'Oreille peoples’ historic name for the confluence area was “the place of the big bull trout.” While at this point in time, we should relish in the simple discovery of the Westslopes returning to the most contaminated reaches of the Clark Fork system, it certainly might be feasible that in future generations the words of the native people could again come true. After all, “if it can be recalled, it can be restored.”

We have a vision, a plan and a mission underway to clean up the Clark Fork watershed from its damaged condition. But what we also need to have, as much as or maybe even more than anything else, is patience.

As the end of the 2008 construction season closes on Silver Bow Creek, let’s have a look at the progress to date and the work to be performed in the near future: Volume of contaminated materials removed: 3,700,000 cubic yards
Miles of stream remediated and restored: 10 miles
Acres of floodplain remediated and restored: 950 acres
Percentage of Total Project Completed: 70%
The Next Six Months:
A new stream and floodplain will reach from Butte all the way downstream to the railroad trestles at the upstream end of Durant Canyon;
Almost one mile of new stream will be completed in the beginning reach of Subarea 4 (near Opportunity/MT Hwy 1);
The bid package for the first 2.5 miles of the Durant Canyon cleanup section will be released.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

CFWEP Sails on the Pea Green Boat

CFWEP has moved into the entertainment industry with its first hour long radio show on Montana Public Radio’s Pea Green Boat with Captain Annie Garde.

I happen to be a huge fan of the Pea Green Boat, a children’s program broadcasted Monday through Friday, 4 – 5pm. It tends to match my level of intellect. Annie and I met during the National Folk Festival last July in Butte. The CFWEP booth at the festival family area was crowded with children looking at bugs collected from a stream. In the background was the occasional cry of a bug-loving kid being pulled from the table by their parents. Annie happened to stop by and seemed interested enough in the children working with the bugs. I took the opportunity to see if Annie would like bugs to visit her Pea Green Boat.

On a Friday morning, I made the trip to Missoula for the show along with Claudia, my boyfriend’s 8 year old bug-obsessed daughter. We stopped on the Clark Fork River in Drummond to collect a variety of bugs from the river and toted them to Missoula to see Annie.

It was our first time in a radio studio and there was so much to see. After a quick tour we moved into our studio-home for the next hour. With our magnifying glasses ready, Claudia and I spread our collected bugs in basins near our microphones and settled in. Annie outfitted us with headsets and, after a brief tutorial on how to speak into the microphone, we were off and sailing!

Panic set in at first. Annie introduced us on the air while Claudia and I looked at each other bug-eyed. Our legs jerked, ready to leap for the door and back onto dry land, but Annie smoothly pushed us off from the dock and after a few questions from her we settled right in.
The program was primarily educational. When Annie asked Claudia about a dragonfly, Claudia promptly replied, “He squirts out water from his butt to give him energy to swim, and then he can swim a little bit farther.”

Annie also made some observations of her own. “I am looking at one now. He kinda’ looks like a caterpillar . . . the brown part of him is almost transparent and going right down his center is a big black line that seems to be inside of his skin that is transparent. He is creeping along, and as he goes that black line goes back and forth too.”

And I replied, “Well, very interesting to have see-through skin. We would look a lot different with see through skin, I think.”

“Oh boy, we would see a lot of stuff – and not just a big black line!” said Annie. The bug in question was a cranefly, a regular favorite on CFWEP field trips.

Before we knew it, our ride was over and we returned with the Pea Green Boat to dock. Our thanks to Annie and all at Montana Public Radio for giving us, and the bugs that call the Clark Fork River home, a voice on the airwaves.

Hear the whole show, available in downloadable MP3 format, on our website at http://www.cfwep.org/About/peagreenboat.html.

-Jen Titus, CFWEP Field Coordinator

Restoration, Economics & Education

In the Clark Fork Basin, environmental restoration is big business. At the headwaters, the ongoing restoration of Silver Bow Creek continues. Downstream, workers continue to excavate century-old mine tailings from the former Milltown Reservoir. And, with the filing of the Consent Decree for the mainstem Clark Fork River Superfund site in February 2008, local governments, state agencies and community groups are making preparations for the many new restoration projects that will result from the $104 million in new funding that will be administered by the State of Montana’s Natural Resource Damages Program.

Restoration projects have been recognized as an economic driver in southwest Montana for most of the last decade, and, at the state and national levels, others are beginning to quantify and explore the idea of a “restoration economy.” To explore the educational and training needs of such a restoration economy, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, along with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education and Montana Tech of the University of Montana, presented a workshop on “Filling a Void: Growing Montana’s Restoration Workforce” at Montana Tech’s Copper Lounge on Thursday, October 2nd in Butte.

Before a packed house including Montana scientists, government officials, educators and representatives from labor and community groups, speakers and panelists recounted the history of environmental damages in Montana, and how by restoring damaged landscapes communities create not only healthy ecosystems, but new economic opportunities. Make no mistake, restoration is hard work, and it requires a wide variety of expertise. From on-the-ground heavy equipment operators to scientists and researchers engaged in monitoring and analysis to the designers, administrators and coordinators who take restoration projects from idea to action, restoration means jobs.

After an initial panel discussion on restoration workforce needs in Montana, workshop attendees put their heads together to better define the state’s restoration needs and the sorts of jobs and education required. There was general agreement that the greatest needs lie in the areas of communications, science, and technical skills, and that a balance must be struck between specialists focused on one aspect of the complex process of environmental restoration and generalists who can articulate a “big picture” understanding.

CFWEP Director Matt Vincent sat on an afternoon panel on the present and future of restoration education in Montana, discussing the obstacles the program has overcome and the successes it has enjoyed. The panel largely agreed on the necessary ingredients for successful restoration education: an interdisciplinary approach; project-focused lessons and courses; real-world experiences and mentorships for students; and the promotion of Montana’s stewardship culture. It has been through just such methods that CFWEP has achieved measurable successes over the past several years, and, as the concept of a restoration economy gains traction, CFWEP can serve as a valuable model for other communities seeking to promote restoration, while improving education and local economies at the same time.

A healthy environment, better education and job creation? It almost sounds too good to be true, but, from Butte to Missoula, the restoration economy is thriving. With the commitment on display at the Governor’s workshop, Montana just might be the first state in the nation to develop a sustainable economy hand-in-hand with a sustainable environment. The rest of the country stands to learn a thing or two from the transformation of the nation’s largest Superfund site into the nation’s largest restored, healthy watershed.

-Justin Ringsak, CFWEP Communications Coordinator

Dr Arlene Alvarado: Welcome Aboard!

Arlene Alvarado
CFWEP is excited to announce the addition of our newest staff member, Dr. Arlene Alvarado, Program Specialist. Arlene comes to us from the Montana Tech Biology Department, where as an adjunct faculty member; she teaches Anatomy and Physiology, and has previously taught Zoology, Evolution and Introduction to Biology.

Dr. Alvarado was also a lead member of the Hanta Virus Research team as an animal behavior expert within the Biology Department. Her expertise will allow her to help CFWEP with its database development and management, field research mentorship program and as a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) faculty liaison, with our program’s new elementary education Math and Science partnership project. The addition of our new superstar Program Specialist brings CFWEP full-time staff to five, with another full-time VISTA slated to join us in January. Come meet Arlene at our next fundraiser, Saturday, November 8th from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Quarry Brewery!

Fall Fieldtrip Season Closes with a New Student Record

The fall fieldtrip season has come to a close and with it another great season with our students. As the restoration work continues to move downstream, so do our fieldtrip sites that serve as examples of a stream impacted by tailings. This fall we moved to Silver Bow Creek near Opportunity – next door to the newly built visitor’s center on Route 1. Thank you to Shelley Holland, MT DEQ for allowing us access to that site. Students monitored that site observing vegetation, water quality and macroinvertebrates. Students also monitored Silver Bow Creek in a restored section upstream of Rocker for a contrasting comparison to the tailings in Opportunity. 175 7th graders and 38 9th graders from Butte monitored those sites and each left with an imprint in their minds of what tailings next to a stream looks like, and what it looks like after tailings are removed. We hope it is a site they will remember. 32 students from Drummond school also joined the fieldtrip season monitoring sites in Garrison and Drummond.

Fieldtrip leaders who lead the fieldtrip stations with students are really what make our fieldtrips great. This year our fieldtrip leaders were: From CFWEP staff and student help, Justin Ringsak, Rayelynn Connole, Eric Henrich, Sabira Farrow and I. Volunteers included Dave Salo, US Forest Service, Carly Gibson, US Forest Service, Raj Kasinath, Montana Tech, Joe Griffin, MTDEQ, Rich Prodgers, Bighorn Environmental, Christina Talley, Montana Tech, Debbie Smith, Montana Tech, Kenda Herman, US Forest Service, and Billie-Jean Reynolds, Retired Teacher.

This year’s success with students can be marked with a new student record. CFWEP offers assistance for students interested in continuing their learning in the watershed with research projects or involvement in local projects. This year a record 20 7th grade students all from East Middle School have requested assistance in continuing their research in the watershed. Each student will be matched with a science mentor to complete their science fair project. Students will be meeting afterschool Wednesdays starting November 5th. Each week we will work through a portion of their project. They will meet with their mentors outside of this time. By February students will all have completed their projects. Anyone interested in working with these students as either a mentor, or help with the sessions is welcome!

-Jen Titus, CFWEP Field Coordinator

Montana Schools Dive Into World Water Monitoring Day

Water is essential, not only for humans, but for the health of the natural world around us, for our industries and our development, and, for the fisherman and floaters among us, for our recreation and relaxation. But water is also a tricky little molecule. We all live within the fluid motions of the water cycle. The Earth’s waters fall to the ground as rain or snow; sink down to become groundwater; flow downhill to become part of streams, lakes and rivers; or evaporate into the atmosphere to do it all over again. The water cycle means connection. Our local actions affect our waters, which could, in turn, cycle on to affect other waters. And, over the past century, we have affected the Earth’s water in unprecedented ways.

We are only now beginning to understand the consequences through education and events like World Water Monitoring Day (WWMD). WWMD was developed by an international consortium of government and private organizations to promote our understanding of our waters, and to encourage local communities to accept the responsibilities of stewardship. With the support of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, three southwest Montana high schools took part in the 2008 WWMD, collecting and assessing data on several local water bodies.

Tenth grade students from teacher Darcy Schindler’s science class at Drummond High School spent a day at the confluence of the Little Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers and at the Clark Fork at Drummond City Park. The students completed visual observations and evaluated vegetation and animal signs and collected and assessed stream insects along with data on the baseline chemical content of the river. Based on the data they collected, students concluded that the Clark Fork River is a healthy stream and getting better over time with the help of upstream restoration projects, a far cry from the Clark Fork of past decades that would run red with metals contamination.

Further upstream, students from Butte High School and Butte Central High School monitored conditions in the Clark Fork headwaters at the Mill-Willow Creek Bypass Channel, Silver Bow Creek at the Warm Springs Ponds discharge, Silver Bow Creek near Rocker, and Blacktail Creek at Thompson Park. Students did an excellent job of navigating the complex issues and science involved in these headwaters creeks; for the curious, complete data results are listed below.

Butte High students observed significant differences between the aquatic insect populations of Silver Bow Creek at the Warm Springs Ponds discharge and, right next door, populations of the closely linked Mill-Willow Creek bypass channel that circumvents the ponds. While the bypass showed a healthy, diverse insect community, including many specimens of sensitive stoneflies and mayflies, the discharge was dominated by scuds and caddis. Similarly, Butte Central students found vastly different insect populations at Blacktail Creek and Silver Bow Creek near Rocker. While tiny swimmer mayflies and stones were found in large numbers at Blacktail, downstream at Silver Bow more pollution-tolerant leeches and blood midges had taken over. The students’ chemistry data pointed to possible explanations for the differing bug communities, including nutrient issues on Silver Bow Creek related to Butte sewage discharge and the possible effects of the Warm Springs Ponds waste treatment facility on Silver Bow Creek’s insects. All student data was submitted to the WWMD database, which catalogues monitoring results from around the globe.

To quote WWMD organizers, “The need for water is fundamental for all living things. This need knows no boundaries, and it is critical that individuals become aware of the ways in which they can impact water quality.” Today, the Clark Fork Basin offers us seen and unseen reminders of our past impacts, and, in Montana, students are demonstrating an awareness of those impacts and a commitment to the health of our rivers. The future of Montana’s waters is in good hands.

-Justin Ringsak, CFWEP Communications Coordinator

For more on World Water Monitoring Day, visit the WWMD website at http://www.worldwatermonitoringday.org/

Milltown Dam Education Program Update

Students evaluate sediment on the Clark Fork River

Ever since the breaching of the Milltown Dam last March the confluence area of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers has been in constant flux. Excavators and haul trucks operating, trainloads of contaminated sediments running 100 miles upstream where additional excavators and haul trucks work in reverse at the other end of the watershed, spreading Milltown wastes atop the old Opportunity Ponds tailings. Mother Nature is into it full-board too, carrying tons of sediments and woody debris downstream from the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers, springing up new riparian growth along sandbars and stream banks and sending trout and other fish up past the confluence for the first time in more than 100 years.

It’s a busy and exciting site, progress in perpetual motion.

In fact, from the Milltown bluff viewing site, the whole process looks something like ants at a big picnic where there’s never a shortage of food, not even for one minute.

The CFWEP is pleased to give an update on our own progress in making sure Missoula, Bonner and Anaconda kids are taking it all in. In its first year of operation in Missoula, the CFWEP is working with Missoula schools to offer the Milltown Dam Education Program. It was only fitting that the first school to go through the new and improved Milltown program be the one closest to all the activity. Sean Kiffe’s 7th graders from Bonner School kicked off the 2008-09 school year in October. Since then, Sussex and St. Josephs in Missoula have taken part, with four more Missoula schools set to visit the site in the spring. Carlton Nelson’s 7-8th graders from Anaconda will finish out the fall Milltown field season the week of November 17th. If you’re a scientist interested in lending a hand or just coming out to observe, please feel welcome and contact CFWEP at mvincent@mtech.edu or at 406-496-4832.

The Milltown program includes three days of classroom lessons and hands-on activities with students and one full-day field trip visiting Milltown, the Clark Fork and the Blackfoot River to see what’s going on, both with their own eyes and with science. To that end, students take on the role of riverine scientists for a day, starting by spending a half-hour at the bluff with one of the many professional scientists and engineers working on the project. Professional scientists who have worked with the students on the project to date include Doug Martin (Natural Resource Damage Program), Ben Johnson (Envirocon), Mike Kustudia (CFRTAC), Chris Brick (Clark Fork Coalition) and Mike Bader (Bader Consulting).

From the bluff, it’s all about the students doing science themselves, led by a team of top-notch University of Montana graduate students working with Dr. Vicki Watson’s Environmental Studies program. Activity stations at the field study sites include water quality, macroinvertebrates, riparian vegetation and sediments and morphology data collection. The University student all-stars who have worked tirelessly with CFWEP in the development and implementation of the field and classroom program are Amy Edgerton, Katie Makarowski, Kelley Garrison, Bethany Taylor, Christa Torrens, Charlie Larson and Sarah Hamblock. Thanks to all who have helped make this program a success so far.

And if we haven’t seen you yet, we’ll look forward to this spring! If you’re a teacher, don’t forget to mark your calendar for Friday and Saturday, February 6-7 for the CFWEP’s next Milltown Dam Education Program Training Workshop at the Bonner School. Participants will receive a $200 stipend and are eligible for 18 OPI renewal units.

Again, visit http://www.cfwep.org/ for more information or contact Matt Vincent at 406-496-4832 or email mvincent@mtech.edu.

-Matt Vincent, CFWEP Director

The Milltown Superfund SiteThe photo above shows a train loaded with contaminated sediment at the dam site. The area to the left of the train is the former reservoir, where workers are currently excavating sediment that was contaminated by historic upstream mining and smelting from Butte and Anaconda. The area to the right of the train is the former channel of the Clark Fork River. The river has currently been rerouted as part of ongoing remediation and restoration work.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Data From East Middle School - 7th Grade Field Trip (April 24,2008)

Data From April 24,2008 EMS Fieldtrip
On April 24, 2008, the students of East Middle School, Kathy Foley's 7th Grade class went on a CFWEP Fieldtrip. They visited the following two sites: an less-impacted site (Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park); and an impacted site (Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont). Below is a summary/average of the data gathered during the fieldtrip.

Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park (Less-Impacted)
Blacktail Creek at Father Sheehan Park is classified as a residential, recreational, urban, area that has been impacted by mining, remediation, illegal dumping, and development.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to the Blacktail Creek site, the weather was cold and windy. The air temperature was recorded at .10 degrees Celsius, and the water temperature was recorded at approximately 3.4 degrees Celsius. The dissolved oxygen and turbidity were 6.74 mg/l and 3.13 NTU respectively. The creek was not tested for copper, but the iron and nitrate concentrations were 0.17 ppm and 0.60 ppm respectively.

Vegetation - For the vegetation assessment, the common vegetation in the riparian area consisted of willows and grasses. The plant/ground cover was dense.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The average pollution tolerance index score for this site was 23. The top three macro invertebrates found at the site were blood midges, beetles, and worms.

Silver Bow Creek at Crackerville Road, Fairmont (Impacted)
Silver Bow Creek at Creackerville Road, Fairmont is classified as residential, agricultural, partially urban/partially rural, and is a superfund site. The area has been impacted by development, mining, agriculture (stock watering/crossing, irrigation/diversion), vegetation removal/maintenance, and remediation/restoration.

Water Chemistry - During the visit to Silver Bow Creek, the weather was windy and cold with some snow. The air temperature was not recorded, and the creek temperature was recorded to be 6 degrees Celsius. The dissolved oxygen and conductivity were 10.70 mg/l and 355.17 uS/cm respectively. The copper concentration was measured at 10.5 ppm. The concentration of iron and nitrates was not recorded.

Vegetation - The common vegetation in the riparian area was mostly willows, salt grass, and tufted hair grass. The overall plant community was impacted by mining and looked very unhealthy.

Pollution Tolerance Index - The pollution tolerance index score was calculated to be 13. The top three macro invertebrates found at the site were snipe flies, blood midges, and crane flies.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Afield Again

Subalpine September snow flurries might intimidate some, but one thing we've learned here in Montana is that if you plan on working in the field, you can't wait on good weather. Such was the Anaconda Range's Storm Lake the perfect setting for our first field trip of the new school year.

CFWEP's Youth Court program took its alternative community service venture beyond new boundaries the weekend after Labor Day with an outing into the wilderness. Literally.

Wilderness photographer and enthusiast Chadeayne Roush, your anything but typical septegenarian, met our students at the Storm Lake trailhead for a 7-mile excursion into the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness area that included a semi-summit of Little Rainbow Peak (9,989') and a walk over Storm Lake Pass to the awe-inspiring Goat Flat.

None of the 13 students who made the hike had ever ventured on a hike of this distance, let alone this destination into the wilderness backcountry before. The trip was an awesome experience for the group nonetheless, as one put it best while taking in a windy vista of the Big Hole valley through a snow-speckled screen:
"I think I just found my new hangout."

Prior to making the trek, the Montana Wilderness Society's John Gatchell and Montana Tech ecology professor Dr. Michelle Anderson delivered evening lectures and discussion on the unique and important benefits that wilderness areas provide to humans, plants and animals.

Wilderness is an unspoiled setting where all of us, regardless of species, can sink in and simply be ourself without anything else getting in the way, even if it only lasts for a day. And at many times throughout this day, the students faces said it all.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

2008 CFWEP "Flood Days"
Silent Art Auction

Why is CFWEP holding a Silent Auction?

On June 21st, the CFWEP worked with the Clark Fork Coalition, the Clark Fork River Market and other organizations and state agencies to coordinate a river awareness event commemorating 100 years since the great 1908 flood that greatly exacerbated the already significant hard-rock mining pollution in the Upper Basin. As part of the event, regional artists created original pieces inspired by the past, present and future of the Clark Fork River. Two pieces are being auctioned off as a fundraiser for the CFWEP and CFC.

How does the Silent Auction work?

CFWEP, in coordination with the Clark Fork Coalition, is currently accepting bids on two of the original pieces produced at the event. in a "silent auction" format. Here is how it works:

1. Email your bid to jringsak@mtech.edu

2. Please be sure to include your name, phone number, bid amount, and which piece you are bidding on in the email

All current bids will be listed on cfwep.org, updated weekly. The auction will close on 09.01.08, with pieces going to the highest bidder at that time. All proceeds go toward the CFWEP and the CFC. If you have any questions or comments, send an email to jringsak@mtech.edu.

The Art:

Item #1: The Living River, Summer Solstice 2008 by Corey Graceacrylic on canvas24" x 36"

Item #2: River Kills by Matt Vincent dye and mine tailings slurry on textile 36 " x 48 " (approximate)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Seeking Volunteers for Willow Cutting

CFWEP, in collaboration with the Butte-Silver Bow Arts Foundation and the National Folk Festival, are seeking volunteers to assist in gathering willow cuttings in the Butte area that will be used as art materials for Family Area Activities at the 2008 National Folk Festival in Butte on Saturday and Sunday July 12 and 13. We will provide volunteers with all necessary equipment and transportation to cutting sites. Volunteers are also welcome to come to willow cutting events at any time during the two scheduled cuttings (i.e. you don’t have to be there all day- if you can pitch in for an hour or two, we would appreciate it!). Site locations are To-Be-Announced. To sign-up, or for more information, contact Justin Ringsak, CFWEP, 406-496-4897, jringsak@mtech.edu. Thanks!

Willow Cutting Dates:
Monday June 16, 2008, Noon-5pm
Monday July 7, 2008, 2:30-5:30pm

Guest Blog: We need to live life with ocean in mind

By Wallace J. Nichols
Article Launched: 06/06/2008 01:34:07 AM PDT

Everywhere I go, people ask: "What one thing can I do for the ocean?"

My daughter, a kindergartner, answers simply: "pick up your trash." Of course, using energy-efficient light bulbs or driving a hybrid are good answers, since global warming is fundamentally an ocean issue. Then again, the simple act of choosing to eat seafood that is sustainable and healthy can help the ocean.

But our ocean is in serious trouble. Reading recent news and scientific papers is enough to make your head spin. They tell us that there is no corner of our vast ocean that is not free of human fingerprints.

As an oceanographer, I'm quite familiar with the relentless bad news. Keeping up-to-date on it all is a part of my job. Since the ocean holds the majority of life on Earth and governs our air, our climate and our food, that means we're in real, big trouble.

As daunting as it appears, the ocean crisis can be boiled down to three problems: we've put too much in, we've taken too much out, and we are wrecking the edge.

Who wouldn't be concerned about the ever-expanding Texas-size "garbage patch" in the Pacific Ocean, the shutdown of West Coast salmon fishing, right whales and sea turtles drowning in fishing gear, and the summer closure of beaches due to toxic pollution?

What you can do?

Obviously, there is no silver bullet - or, is there? If I had one answer to give to those who ask, "What can I do for the ocean?" it would be this: "Live like you love the ocean." Living like we love the ocean means putting less in, taking less out and protecting the ocean's edge where so much life lives.

Less in. Less out. Protect the edge.


Rather than wringing our hands, hope is on the horizon. We can live like we love the ocean in many ways.

First, shop like you love the ocean.

Buy products that are ocean-friendly. Use a canvas bag to get your stuff from the store to your car to your house, rather than a plastic bag that will stick around forever. Drink filtered tap water from a refillable glass or steel bottle instead of buying water shipped halfway around the world.

Second, eat like you love the ocean.

When you choose seafood, be sure it's caught sustainably. That's gotten a heck of a lot easier lately as Whole Foods, thousands of local restaurants, and even Wal-Mart are going organic and sustainable.

Third, vacation like you love the ocean.

Doing your part

This summer, hike in a coastal park or visit an aquarium. Go on a sea turtle or whale watch where your visit supports conservation. Surfing, kayaking and snorkeling are all ocean-friendly activities. Why not join Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup and make a day of it with your friends?

Lastly, vote like you love the ocean.

Many local, state, and national politicians support bold efforts to tackle global warming, create ocean parks - our so-called "Undersea Yosemites" that Ocean Conservancy is helping to build - and better fund cutting-edge ocean science. With our votes, we must be perfectly clear: We want leaders who bring about sea change.

We are entering a decade of progress in the culture of conservation and sustainability. Millions who care deeply about the ocean are joining to transform our relationship with the sea - they are starting a sea change.

Each of us must be part of this ocean revolution - each in our own way, each as part of a connected whole.

Join for yourself. Join for others. Join for the ocean. But, when you join, please remember to live like you love the ocean.

WALLACE J. NICHOLS is a senior scientist at Ocean Conservancy and a research associate at California Academy of Sciences. He was featured in the documentary film "The 11th Hour." He wrote this article for the Mercury News.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The 1908 Flood Trickles Down to the Present

The past never truly leaves us. It deposits itself, once used up, in layers underneath us, forming the foundations that we walk on in the present and the future, for better or for worse. The modern Clark Fork Basin, the largest complex of Superfund environmental cleanup sites in the U.S., is the result of a past shaped by a confluence of forces, both natural and human-created. 100 years of mining and smelting at the headwaters in Butte and Anaconda significantly impacted the area, and some of those impacts were channeled down the creeks of the basin, ultimately impairing the ecological health of the Clark Fork River.

In 1908, mining in Butte had been booming for several decades, while down the road in Anaconda ore processing operations spread air and water pollution throughout the Deer Lodge valley. Further downstream near Missoula, construction had just been completed on Copper King William Clark’s Milltown Dam. The dam was built to power Clark’s nearby lumber mill, which supplied timbers for the mines back upstream, as well as modern trolley cars, streetlights and electricity in Missoula.

In June of 1908, a massive flood event, the largest of historic record, exacerbated the environmental impacts already occurring at the upper end of the basin. In Butte and Anaconda, mine tailings that had been disposed of in and along local creeks were picked up by the momentum of the rising waters and washed downstream. Some tailings were deposited in floodplains. In the Clark Fork floodplain in the Deer Lodge valley, patches of such tailings, often called “slickens”, are still clearly visible as bare patches of dirt with little or no vegetation.

The force of the flood carried a large volume of tailings past the town of Deer Lodge, and, as the Clark Fork’s channel narrowed and, with water added from the Little Blackfoot River, Flint Creek, Rock Creek, and other tributaries, fewer tailings sediments settled out of the water as it made its way down toward Missoula. Finally, the flood pushed this large volume of tailings into the Milltown Dam. The contaminated sediments settled out in the reservoir, where they remained until the recent dam removal and restoration project.

The effects of the 1908 flood have flowed into modern times. Looking across the basin today, we can see these effects in the ongoing restoration of Silver Bow Creek as streamside tailings deposited by a century of mining are removed. We can see these effects in the slickens dotting the landscape of Deer Lodge Valley; restoration of this section of the river should begin in the next few years. We can even see these effects in the waters themselves, where, if there is heavy runoff or rain, metals and other contaminants wash in, threatening fish and aquatic life. We can see these effects 120 miles downstream at the Milltown Dam, where tailings deposits contaminated the local aquifer with arsenic and ultimately played a key role in the decision to remove the dam. And we can see these effects at the BP/Arco Waste Repository near the town of Opportunity, where tailings from Silver Bow Creek and Milltown are shipped and spread out atop the six square miles of tailings already present at the site from the old operations of the Anaconda Smelter and Reduction Works.

And so in 2008 the tailings that washed downstream to Milltown a hundred years ago are making the trip home, back upstream to Opportunity, not quite reaching their ultimate point of origin on the Butte Hill. As we go forward in restoring the Clark Fork River, it is essential to remember the past and its consequences. Our actions also have consequences, some immediate, some very long term, and many we do not have the ability to see or predict. As we proceed with restoration, and as the natural resource economy continues to be a part of Montana culture, we must be mindful that our actions today will carry over into tomorrow. Restoration is no easy task, neither is limiting the impacts of civilization, growth and development on the natural world. But if we don’t wish to lose the rivers, landscapes and wildlife we profess to love and treasure here in the Treasure State, then we must continually work to understand the consequences of our actions and to do our best to maintain the health of our last best environment.

It would be a mistake to think that the cleanup of the Clark Fork will some day be “finished” or “complete.” The cleanup of the Clark Fork and similarly impacted rivers is not so much about a linear series of tasks to be completed as it is about our long-term relationship with the river. A culture of environmental stewardship is blooming in Montana, motivated by past impacts, but once the visible remnants of those impacts have been restored and removed from our field of vision, we must keep our eyes locked firmly on that slippery concept of stewardship in the hope that, in another 100 years, we can celebrate the centennial of a healthy Clark Fork River.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Seeking Teachers & Students to Work as
2-Week Summer Field Evaluators for the
Butte Reclamation Evaluation System (BRES)

The CFWEP is seeking interested teachers and students to work in paid positions as summer field evaluators on Butte Priority Soils Operable Unit reclaimed sites. Five selected teachers and five selected students (high school, undergraduate or graduate level) will have the opportunity to collect monitoring data about the reclaimed Butte environment and gain valuable experience in practical field science. Participating teachers will also have the opportunity to earn OPI renewal credits.

• Participants will receive a one-week (Mon-Fri) BRES field evaluation training and become certified BRES field evaluators.
• Teacher-student pairs will each perform a field evaluation of BPSOU sites for a one-week (Mon-Fri) period.
• Teacher-student pairs will be responsible for inputting their week of field data into the BRES database. Database entry will be on the Monday after the end of each pair’s evaluation week.
• Teachers will be required to prepare a data summary report of their week in the field with their student; students will be required to assist in preparation of summary report and to perform one or both of the following tasks: prepare a summary report of their experience; and/or develop a science fair/research project using the skills and expertise gained in the summer experience.
• As an addendum to the summary report, teachers will be required to submit one lesson plan and/or field activity curriculum product to be used in their classroom based upon their experience.
• CFWEP staff will provide technical support and assistance throughout the project.
• All necessary equipment will be provided.
• Each participating teacher will receive a stipend of $1,500. Up to 40 OPI renewal units are available and offered free of charge.
• Each participating student will receive a stipend of $750.
• The deadline for applications is Thursday, June 5th, with successful applicants notified no later than Friday, June 6th. Training will be held during the following week, June 9th-13th. Teacher-student pairs will then be assigned dates to conduct field evaluations based on availability and BRES requirements.

To apply:
Contact Justin Ringsak, CFWEP Public Education Coordinator, at 406.496.4897, or email jringsak@mtech.edu.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Identifying Montana Trout

This blog entry comes to you courtesy of Bader Consulting, mbader@montana.com, with fish art copyright Joseph Tomelleri, courtesy Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The Bull Trout (Salvelinus confluentus) is Montana's largest migratory trout and is protected as a Threatened Species. The Montana record is 26 pounds, yet even larger fish are likely. In late Summer bull trout begin epic spawning journeys up to 100 miles. They are sensitive to changes in habitat and require colder, cleaner water than other native fish.

The Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi) is classified as a "sensitive" species in Montana. Once abundant, "pure strain" cutthroat (not inter-bred with other species) are now restricted to 5% of their former range. They are most often located in headwaters streams and high mountain lakes. The state record is 16 pounds from Red Eagle Lake.

Rainbow Trout (Oncoryhnchus mykiss) are relatively abundant in Montana's cold water rivers, streams and lakes. Their name comes from the colorful stripe running the length of the body. The Montana record is 33 pounds, from the Kootenai River. Rainbows often interbreed with cutthroat trout. The record hybrid is 33 pounds from Ashely Lake.

Brown Trout (Salmo trutta), also known as the German Brown, is a large trout which spawns in the fall. They take their name from the brown-yellow color of their bodies. Attaining large size, the Montana record is a 29 pound fish from Wade Lake.

The Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a non-native fish and the smallest of the trout species. The Montana record is 9 pounds from Lower Two Medicine Lake. They are most often found in smaller tributary streams. Brook trout have displaced native trout from the lower reaches of many streams. Since they are chars, they can interbreed with native bull trout, often resulting in sterile offspring.

Use These Good Trout Fishing Practices:

Know Your Fish
Know the regulations for your location
Use single, barbless hooks
Avoid fishing in hot weather & high water temps
Practice quick release techniques

For More Information, visit:



Monday, May 12, 2008

Volunteers of the Month
Marko Lucich & Tom Malloy

Ahoy, CFWEP followers! The program is pleased to announce its newest honoree as Volunteer of the Month. First of all, let’s be clear, the “of the month” designation has lost its punctuality, and even though we will continue to call it our “VOM” award, it will be given out on a more “every other month” basis. The “Volunteer of the Every Other Month Award” just doesn’t have a great ring to it, though, considering this is coming from the already unwieldy acronym “CFWEP.”

This month, the CFWEP has decided to give our prestigious award to two individuals for the first time. Congratulations to the Butte Chamber of Commerce’s Marko Lucich and Tom Malloy of Butte-Silver Bow City-County as Co-Volunteers of the Month!

Marko is the director of the Butte Chamber and has graciously provided his Visitors Center on George Street, free of charge, as a first-stop for visiting classrooms to The Mining City, not to mention the headquarters for the CFWEP’s volunteer training workshops. Marko also gives the CFWEP the key to the Berkeley Pit Viewing Stand, allowing us to bring students to the area’s favorite Superfund site all through the year.

Tom is an environmental engineer and the Reclamation Manager for Butte-Silver Bow City-County. Tom has been volunteering with the CFWEP in various capacities for the past few years. Particularly, in the last few months, he has arranged for two middle and elementary school classroom visits to the Anselmo Mine hoist house and mine yard, hosted an environmental studies group from Billings on a tour of Butte restoration sites and, most recently, spent a day in the field with 75 Butte seventh graders on Silver Bow Creek, no easy feat for anyone.

The CFWEP greatly depends on the expertise and cooperation of professional scientists like Mr. Malloy and the flexibility and generosity of local citizens like Marko and his organization in order to successfully continue its educational endeavors with the youth of the Upper Clark Fork Basin. Thank you very much, Tom and Marko! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How Much Fish Does a Fish Hawk Eat? - Osprey & Citizen Science in the Clark Fork

Well, it depends. But for interested high school students and folks from the Upper Clark Fork, they’ll soon be able to give you an exact answer.

The Clark Fork Watershed Education Program has teamed up with researchers at the University of Montana to provide what will be an awesome experience for the public: to take part in an important field project over the next few months to help determine the effects of mercury on the area’s osprey population. There will be two public meetings to provide more information and to recruit “citizen scientists” for the project:

-Tuesday, April 29 in Deer Lodge at the St. Mary's Center

-Wednesday, April 30 in Drummond at the School/Community Library

Both meetings start at 5:30 p.m. The meetings will last around 1 ½ hours and will include a brief presentation followed by a trip to a local osprey nest for a field training on collecting observation data. Once recruited, “citizen scientists” are expected to make one trip per week to their assigned nest to collect data over the next 3-4 weeks. The data will be then be provided to the University of Montana for their ongoing research project.

Those who sign up to volunteer with the project will be included in the sampling trips in mid-June to mid-July, where osprey chicks will be brought down from the nest, banded for identification and blood sampled for mercury analysis at a lab. Optional involvement includes a trip to the laboratory in Missoula at the UM campus and technical support.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), or “fish hawks,” are commonly observed near Montana’s lakes, reservoirs and rivers. They are migratory, with the Clark Fork population arriving in April and departing in October for wintering grounds in Central and South America. They are especially important as a “canary in the coalmine” species for determining river health. Unlike eagles and other hawks, the diet of the osprey consists entirely of fish, unless it’s absolutely necessary to seek other prey such as small mammals and reptiles. They feed primarily on “rough” fish, such as suckers and whitefish, although trout and other species are consumed regularly.

The amount of fish osprey eat is largely determined by whether they are feeding their young and by the distance they must travel from their nesting area to the river or food source, but typically they feed twice per day. Most fish caught by the flying fisherman range in size from 5 to 16 inches, although the osprey can heft fish weighing 4 pounds occasionally. Though very rare, there are instances when an osprey has drowned upon “hooking into” a fish too large to lift, being pulled underneath.

As the king of the river food web, they are an excellent indicator of what contaminants are present in the river system. When DDT and other harmful pesticides were legally used, the osprey population was nearly decimated. Their numbers bounced back and now they are being studied with respect to the effects mercury has upon them. Mercury, found primarily in the sediments of streams, accumulate in all species of a river ecosystem. Used heavily in historic gold placer mining operations, mercury is deposited primarily from contamination in the atmosphere. The liquid element, known as “quicksilver,” is a highly toxic substance to the nervous, digestive and reproduction systems of many species, including humans.

To learn more about the project, please contact Justin Ringsak, Montana Tech at (406) 496-4897, jringsak@mtech.edu, or Erick Greene, University of Montana, (406) 243-2179.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Flowing Water: The Milltown Dam Breach and the Restoration of the Clark Fork River

On Friday, March 28th, near Missoula, the Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers flowed freely past the remnants of the Milltown Dam for the first time in over a century. The earthen dam above the flat ground where the dam powerhouse once stood was breached near high noon, and the water wasted no time in following the path of least resistance through a shallow channel into the powerhouse flats and on down the Clark Fork River, where it undoubtedly continued flowing through northwestern Montana, into Idaho, pausing for a time at lake Pend Oreille, then finally moving on to the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean. While the breach has garnered considerable media attention, the real story is not the breach itself, but the history and context that led a community to spend an ocean of time and money to unmake what our history made.

Hundreds of people turned out to witness the breach on a chilly spring day, braving the icy slopes of a steep bluff to catch a glimpse of water in motion. To understand the significance of the dam breach, and why the crowd came, requires some knowledge of the history of the dam and the Clark Fork River. This story has been sadly overlooked in most media coverage, and without it, the dam breach could seem like a dog-and-pony show. "What’s the big deal?" the uninitiated might ask.

The big deal is mining, and copper, and electricity. Today, more than a century removed from the dark old days of pre-electrification, it is easy for us to take the power lighting our homes and revving up our armies of gadgetry for granted. But our brave new world came with a staggering cost, and the Milltown Dam and the Clark Fork River were a part of it.

As demand for copper soared in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, due significantly to its use in the transmission of electricity and also in war-related applications, 120 miles upstream from Milltown, the city of Butte was bustling. Men risked their lives for the prospect of a good paycheck to pull as much copper out of the ground as was humanly possible. The underground tunnels required lots of timber supports, and the process of extracting copper from raw ore through heap roasting and, later, smelting and concentrating also demanded wood to fuel the fires. As a result, William Clark, one of the three legendary Copper Kings, the mining barons of Butte, built a mill at the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork Rivers. Milltown was born.

To power the mill and to produce electricity for his utility that served the cities of Milltown and Missoula with an electric streetcar system, Clark built a dam along with it, the same dam that is generating so much interest these days. The dam was barely finished when a 1908 flood of epic proportions, some call it a 100-year flood, some say a 500-year flood, struck the Clark Fork River.

To understand what happened next, we need to understand the situation upstream in Butte and Anaconda in 1908. Mining and smelting had been going full-tilt for decades. While the ore mined in Butte at the time was high-grade, sometimes approaching 30% copper, the mines still generated huge amounts of waste. The most prominent form of mine waste was tailings, the fine-grained, sand-like sediment that is a byproduct of the milling and concentrating process. Rich in sulfides, heavy metals and arsenic, when mixed with water and oxygen tailings render sulfuric acid, which further mobilizes metals and arsenic into solution at toxic levels, through a chemical process known as acid mine drainage. At the time, these tailings were simply discharged into the nearest convenient creek. Acid mine drainage was not a concern- maximizing copper production was. In Butte, Silver Bow Creek turned into an industrial sewer, with tailings spread out over the floodplain. In Anaconda, tailings from similar operations were dumped into Warm Springs Creek and also spread throughout the southern end of the Deer Lodge Valley. Both creeks sit at the headwaters of the Clark Fork River.

The 1908 flood picked up a massive amount of tailings and other mining wastes and washed it down the Clark Fork. Throughout the Deer Lodge Valley, some tailings settled in the floodplain, resulting in small patches of dead soil called "slickens" where vegetation is unable to grow. Past the town of Deer Lodge, the Clark Fork’s channel narrows as it enters a series of canyons running northwest to Missoula. The narrow channel means faster water, so less tailings waste settled out in these stretches than in the wide-open Deer Lodge Valley. Instead, these tailings were swept up in the swift current until they backed up against the Milltown Dam. About 8 million cubic yards of contaminated sediment were deposited behind the dam. The structure itself was almost washed away in the flood, and Clark had to send miners from Butte, well versed in explosives, to dynamite out the spillway so that the whole thing, powerhouse and all, would not be washed away.

And those tailings have remained at the dam until the past year. The current dam removal and restoration project, carried out beneath the umbrella of numerous federal and state agencies under the banner of the Superfund law and implemented by Envirocon, a private company, is removing the most toxic of that sediment. Every day since last October, trainloads of the stuff have been making the trip to their new home back upstream just outside of Anaconda near Opportunity, where they are unloaded and spread out over the top of the 160 million or so cubic yards of tailings that are already there, a legacy of the big old smelter stack that still stands over Anaconda, casting a long shadow that stretches out to every light switch and electrical socket in the country.

The good news is that the contaminated sediment being shipped from Milltown to Opportunity is considerably less nasty than the stuff that is already there. Because the tailings deposited at Milltown have been underwater in the Clark Fork River for a century, organic matter and other sediments carried by the river were mixed in, rendering the Milltown tailings sediments richer and with a lower acidity and concentration of metals. The state and federal cleanup crews' hope for Opportunity is that the Milltown sediments will serve as a cap, allowing vegetation to grow over the top of the Opportunity tailings, providing a barrier to infiltration into area groundwater and a cap to minimize blowing dust problems.

The motives for the dam removal are directly tied to the tailings deposited at its base. In 1981, arsenic was found in Milltown groundwater. It had infiltrated from the tailings deposit, and posed a human health risk via residents wells used for drinking water. The dam also was problematic for fish, particularly bull trout, listed as a federally threatened species in 1998, as it blocked significant migratory routes from the Lower to Upper Clark Fork, and the reservoir behind the dam created prime habitat for non-native, predatory pike. There were also concerns that the dam was old and decaying, fears that were magnified by an ice jam event near the dam in the mid 1990’s. Compounded, these reasons added up to the ongoing dam removal.

And last month’s breach was only a part of the overall restoration of not only the dam site, but the entire Clark Fork Basin. Upstream, the restoration of Silver Bow Creek continues. The Opportunity site, formerly known as the ponds, now affectionately referred to as the BP-Arco Waste Repository, looms, and we are left to watch and wait and hope that sprouts will appear in the new layer of Milltown sediment. Across I-90 from Opportunity, the Warm Springs Ponds, where lime is added to the waters of Silver Bow Creek to reduce its acidity and cause heavy metals to drop out, remain a question mark. In the short term, the ponds have become excellent waterfowl habitat, but the future of that site, like so much of the Clark Fork, is unclear.

In other words, restoration is not a one-day celebration. The dam breach, while certainly a pivotal moment in the history of the basin, is only a small step toward a healthy river system, toward undoing the damages a century of careless progress wrought. We are all culpable for those damages, so long as we continue to enjoy electricity, and we all share part of the moral obligation to preserve and restore this high wild river basin. And, make no mistake about it, restoration is no simple matter. It will take money and hard work to return the Clark Fork to a healthy ecosystem, and, more than anything, it will take time.

The crowd that came out for the dam breach greeted the free-flowing waters of the Clark Fork and the Blackfoot with cheers and rapt attention. It was inspirational to see so many so invested in the restoration. If the restoration of the Clark Fork, America’s largest Superfund site, is to succeed, then we must maintain our focus and our respect for these wild places, and make those values a foundation of our Montana culture. The dam breach is a good start. We should take strength from it. There is still much work to be done.