Two area plans allocating nearly $100 million in settlement money received the signature of former Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Jan. 3, culminating a long process of planning, review and public input.
The Butte Area One Final Restoration plan allocates $32 million for various projects in the area which starts at Texas and Farrell streets and follows Silver Bow Creek to the Interstate 15-90 overpass west of Montana Street.
The money will be allocated in the following project categories: $10 million for the restoration of the Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor, $10 million for municipal water system improvements, $6 million for mine waste area restoration and revegetation, $4 million for stream restoration, and $1 million for both recreation and small-miscellaneous projects.
“Butte can be very proud of its citizens who served on this council,” wrote Pat Cunneen, an environmental science specialist for the Natural Resource Damage Program, in an email to The Montana Standard on Thursday. “They have done a fantastic job drafting this plan and getting it to Gov. Schweitzer prior to the end of his term in office. We are already starting the work to implement this restoration plan. We hope to have boots on the ground this year, but it will take several years to implement the entire plan.”
The final Upper Clark Fork River Basin Aquatic and Terrestrial Resources Restoration Plans detail the state of Montana’s proposed restoration actions for aquatic and terrestrial resources. In total, approximately $45.6 million available in the Aquatic Priority account and $19.9 million in the Terrestrial Priority account are allocated for actions that will improve fishery and wildlife resources in priority areas of the basin, stretching from Butte to the confluence of the Blackfoot and Clark Fork rivers near Missoula.
The aquatic projects includes $20.5 million to maintain water flows and $16 million for restoration efforts in 13 watersheds, including Silver Bow Creek, Blacktail Creek, Browns Gulch, German Gulch in the Butte area and Warm Springs Creek, Lost Creek, and Willow Creek in the Anaconda area.
Carol Fox, restoration program chief with the Natural Resource Damage Program, said the plans set the stage for the implementation of the restoration actions over the next 20 years.
The plans are part of the state’s process to allocate money received under a series of settlements of the state’s natural resource damage lawsuit against Atlantic Richfield Co. The settlements are for injuries to natural resource caused by hazardous substance releases from historic mining and mineral processing in the Upper Clark Fork River basin.
Under the federal Superfund law, the natural resource trustees must complete a restoration plan and consider public input before natural resource damage settlement money can be spent.
The governor has approved separate restoration plans for the Milltown, Clark Fork River, and Smelter Hill injured areas.
In addition, in October 2012, Schweitzer approved Groundwater Restoration plans that allocate $40.1 million for improvements to the Butte and Anaconda drinking water systems.
— Reporter Fran Davis may be reached via email at email@example.com