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

-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

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 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 for more information or contact Matt Vincent at 406-496-4832 or email

-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.