The nine have been chosen and the learning will begin.
Gov. Brian Schweitzer announced his three picks last week for the Butte Natural Resource Damage Restoration Council. They'll join the six appointed by Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive Paul Babb.
These nine will sit at the table to help decide how best to spend Butte's $28.1 million NRD settlement (plus interest) for irreparable mining damage to a groundwater aquifer in the middle of town:
- Larry Curran, who served as chair of the broader-based Upper Clark Fork River Basin Remediation and Restoration Advisory Council from 2006 to 2008. Curran is administrator of Montana Orthopedics (Schweitzer appointee).
- Elizabeth Erickson, principle hydrogeologist for Water and Environmental Technologies. Erickson is also past president of the Citizens Technical Environmental Committee and a member of the Butte Restoration Alliance (Babb appointee).
- Steve Gallus represented Butte in the Montana House of Representatives from 1999 to 2004 and has been a senator since 2005. Gallus is assistant manager at The Complete Fly Fisher in Wise River (Schweitzer appointee).
- Mark Gollinger retired back to Butte after 23 years in the Navy Seabees. There, he gained experience with large construction projects, wetlands restoration, well drilling, blasting and quarry operations (Babb appointee).
- Ruth Lee is a physician assistant at the Butte Community Health Center and has worked extensively with low-income and homeless patients over the past eight years (Babb appointee).
- John McKee's professional experience has been mainly with engineering project management, building biodiesel refineries throughout the country (Babb appointee).
- Chad Okrusch is assistant professor of communication and media studies at Montana Tech. Okrusch's doctoral dissertation concerns the moral dimensions of democratic environmental problem-solving (Babb appointee).
- Emmett Riordan is director of engineering and planning for electric transmission for NorthWestern Energy (Babb appointee).
- Dave Schultz is a professional engineer who worked in the water utility division and as assistant public works director for Butte-Silver Bow. He was also a candidate for chief executive in 2008 (Schweitzer appointee).
Besides a broad range of professional experience, these nine, many of whom grew up in Butte and are now parents themselves, will also bring diverse recreational and environmental interests to the deliberations. We commend Schweitzer, Babb and the county's Technical Review Committee for making these difficult choices from a pool of more than 60 applicants.
Their first official meeting is not yet scheduled, but they'll all be invited to a "crash course" on the Parrot tailings at the next CTEC/Butte Restoration Alliance meeting Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Holiday Inn Express meeting room. Nick Tucci of the Montana Bureau of Mines and Geology will share findings from the latest NRD-funded study to characterize the scope of the buried waste near the Civic Center. Butte NRD project officer Pat Cunneen will provide an overview of the site's history.
This sounds like a good meeting for anyone wanting to learn more on this major community issue, and we hope everyone who applied to serve on this council will continue to show an interest. Cunneen likened the difficult task facing the Butte NRD Council to that of a jury: They'll listen to evidence from experts on all sides and then help decide how to judiciously spend those millions.
We wish them luck and look forward to following their deliberations.