Standing together on a breeze-ruffled bridge over Upper Silver Bow Creek near its confluence with Blacktail Creek on a great fall day, Steve Bullock and Dave Palmer traded autographs on a document that could bring welcome restoration to both streams.
The memorandum of understanding signed Thursday by Gov. Bullock and Palmer, Butte-Silver Bow's chief executive, commits state and county on the path of partnership in pursuing projects to improve the upper corridors of both creeks.
The MOU is in addition to a recently promulgated consent decree laying out the blueprint for $150 million worth of restoration for the Butte Hill. The MOU formalizes an agreement under which the state and county will work toward further improvements to restoration of the watersheds, including the possibility of a lined reach of creek in the Upper Silver Bow Creek corridor between Texas Avenue and the confluence. Included in the agreement is a $1 million commitment from the state for seed money for such a project.
"It's a pleasure to welcome Gov. Bullock to sign this MOU," Palmer said. "This is another positive step, moving the community forward toward the end goal."
"We're grateful to the state of Montana for the commitment in this agreement. Our last generation mined the metals that drove progress, and future generations should be able to enjoy a clean environment," Palmer said.
Several members of the Restore Our Creek Coalition attended the signing, and both Palmer and Bullock spoke highly of the group's efforts. Both also praised Butte-Silver Bow's Superfund negotiating team, including Jon Sesso, Molly Maffei, Karen Sullivan, Julia Crain, Eric Hassler and Dan Olsen.
Bullock said, "On a great day like this, we tend to forget everything, all the hard work that had to happen to get to a day like today. We believe this agreement, and the consent decree, provide a road map to a peaceful, permanent, sustainable restoration."
Bullock said, "I'm humbled by the relationship between Butte-Silver Bow and the state on the Superfund work in Butte." He added, "In addition to our commitments to one another we will continue to engage members of the public as we work on planning, design and engineering of a potential lined creek channel and things like new trails connecting with the existing trail system. In addition to the commitment for the $1 million, we will work together to find additional funding for restoration."
He said, "None of this would have been possible without the community's persistence, hard work and participation," and urged the Restore Our Creek members to continue their activism on behalf of the creek.
Bullock also honored the memory of Mary Kay Craig, longtime Butte social justice activist, who was a key member of Restore Our Creek.