10 April 2008

Comment on the Natural Resource Damage Program Consent Decree & Proposals

I hope that everyone interested in the future of the Upper Clark Fork River Basin sends comments to Montana's Natural Resource Damage Program regarding the 2008 Consent Decree and proposals on how to spend the money on the Clark Fork River ($26.7 mill), Butte Area One $28.1 mill), and Smelter Hill Uplands ($13.2 mill).

Comments are due 12 April 2008.

More information, including the Consent Decree and the individual plans, may be found at: http://www.doj.mt.gov/lands/naturalresource/lawsuithistory.asp#settlement2008

Please note in particular two things:

1. Efforts to arbitrarily take $2.5 million from the Clark Fork settlement for work on the Blackfoot; and

2. The different alternatives for Butte—including tailings removal vs. subsidizing a Basin Creek filtration plant/Big Hole pipeline. Note that I do not expect my views on this to win a popularity contest with some local government boosters.

Here are my comments:

To: Natural Resource Damage Program
Montana Department of Justice
P.O. Box 201425
Helena, MT 59620-1425

RE: Public comments on the 2008 Consent Decree and various restoration proposals

Thank you to staff at the Natural Resource Damage Program for completing the Consent Decree and for this opportunity to comment on the restoration plans for the river, Anaconda Uplands, and Butte LAO. Please consider the following comments:

1. “State of Montana’s Revised Restoration Plan for the Clark Fork River Aquatic and Riparian Resources,” DOJ/NRDP November 2007

In general, I agree that Alternative One is the preferred alternative.

• However, the difference between the different amounts budgeted for removal of tailings that are buried vs. removal from outside bends in Alternative 1 vs. Alternative 3 appears rather arbitrary. Be flexible on these categories in terms of what is actually found during remedy. It might end up being wise to remove far more tailings (as in Alternative 2) if contamination proves to be higher or more extensive than currently believed.

• Spend more on planting willows or other woody vegetation. On other stream restoration projects, including Silver Bow Creek and the Mill-Willow Bypass, willow planting proved to be a challenge and may be a limiting factor in restoration success.

• Do not bleed $2.5 million from the Clark Fork restoration in order to do work on unrelated area of the Blackfoot. This makes no more sense than spending Clark Fork restoration funds on the Bitterroot or Kootenai. Use the money for restoration where the damage was done and for the purposes that the lawsuit was fought.

• Acquire more land and extend the conservation easement through the river corridor wherever possible. A 100-foot corridor is very minimal for a new restoration project on a river that is very laterally dynamic. In some areas, healthy habitat and meander pattern might suggest a 500-foot corridor.

2. “Draft Conceptual Smelter Hill Area Uplands Resources Restoration Plan” December 2007

In general, I agree with this plan.

• In reseeding plans, minimize or eliminate the use of non-native species. This seems to be the intent of the remedial action work plan, but did not seem to be clearly spelled out.

• With adequate liming, re-contouring, and native grass seeding, the natural recovery of native forbs and woody species may be quite remarkable. Note how such recovery has largely proceeded in Joiner Gulch, which has received no remedial work.

3. “Butte Area One Restoration Planning Process and Draft Conceptual Plan” NRDP November 2007

Without a restoration plan that greatly augments remedy, this area will long suffer from the horribly inadequate Record of Decision under EPA remedy.

For this reason, I strongly support Alternative One.

• To insure the long-term health of Silver Bow Creek and the Upper Clark Fork River, it is imperative to remove both the Parrot Tailings and tailings at LAO/Metro Strom Drain.

• Large scale removal actions must be preceded by construction of a settling basin/treatment pond to prevent additional tailings from recontamination of remedied/restored portions of Silver Bow Creek. Such recontamination has already occurred and is occurring because of the lack of a settling basin/treatment pond, and it is wrong for EPA to allow this. If EPA will not require Arco-BP to fix this problem, then NRDP must.

• Funds from this settlement should not be used to construct a filtration plant for the Basin Creek reservoirs. This is an obligation of local government and the citizens of Butte-Silver Bow that has long been neglected. Other communities in America that depend upon surface water took this step long ago without Superfund money. Furthermore, it seems that B-SB has exaggerated its dependence on Basin Creek water—I would like to see evidence that it constitutes “30% of Butte’s supply.” That said, Butte-Silver Bow should, if it wishes, be able to apply for funding from NRDP through the normal process and make its claim in competition with other restoration/replacement proposals.

• Plans to create a Butte NRD Restoration Council should be thought out carefully. While it appears convenient to earmark a separate fund for Butte restoration and create a separate council for overseeing this fund, it might well result in the unwise expenditure of funds for civil infrastructure at the expense of much needed environmental restoration.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on plans regarding the Consent Decree,

Pat Munday

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