The headwaters of the Clark Fork River will begin a major cleanup next week to remove mining waste from along 43 miles of shoreline.
At a public meeting in Deer Lodge on Wednesday evening, Montana Department of Environmental Quality staff will display how the first 1.6 miles of work will take place. While the first stage takes place entirely on state land below the Warm Springs Ponds outflow, future stages will occur along private reaches of the river.
“It is important for landowners and community members to become involved at this time,” Clark Fork River Technical Assistance Committee coordinator Darryl Barton said in an email. “People should attend the information session and really learn what is going on and how the cleanup is moving forward.”
DEQ project supervisor Brian Bartkowiak said the first stage would extend from the outflow to Perkins Lane.
“We thought that would be a good place to start and let landowners see what’s going to occur on private property later,” Bartkowiak said. “We’re talking about eventually removing 330,000 cubic yards of material and rebuilding a lot of the floodplain. This will be going on for 15-plus years.”
The problems stem from mining operations in Butte and smelting in Anaconda, much of which was flushed into the floodplain after a record-breaking flood in 1908. The upper Clark Fork still displays deposits known as “slickens” where heavy metal-laden sediments collected along banks and still keep almost anything from growing.
Workers will remove the mine tailings, rebuild streambanks and revegetate the new soils in the river corridor. The first project should last about 300 construction days.
The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday 6 to 8 p.m. at the Racetrack fire hall, located at 6887 South Frontage Road in Deer Lodge. It will begin with a presentation by DEQ staff.
For information regarding the Clark Fork River operable unit Reach A, Phase 1 cleanup, contact Brian Bartkowiak at
(406) 841-5043 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the DEQ website at deq.mt.gov.
Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at email@example.com.