Litigation and Restoration  | Other Resources | Contact NRDP

The Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) was created in 1990 to prepare the state’s lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) for injuries to the natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB).

Decades of mining and mineral processing operations in and around Butte and Anaconda released substantial quantities of hazardous substances into the Upper Clark Fork River Basin between Butte and Milltown. These hazardous substances extensively degraded the area’s natural resources.

Litigation and Restoration

In 1983, the State of Montana filed a natural resource damage lawsuit against the Atlantic Richfield Co. (ARCO) to recover damages for:

  • injuries to the water, soils, fish and wildlife in the basin
  • the public’s lost use and enjoyment of these injured resources

Since 1990, the Natural Resource Damage Program within the Montana Department of Justice has been responsible for performing the necessary natural resource damage assessments and pursuing the lawsuit against ARCO. The state has settled its lawsuit through a series of settlement agreements completed in 1999, 2005 and 2008. In addition to the lawsuit against ARCO, in 2008 the state completed settlements for the Mike Horse Dam site and in 2009, for the East Helena site.

The 1999 partial settlement earmarked about $130 million to restore or replace the injured natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin.  Between 2000 and 2011, the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program administered a annual restoration grants process funded by interest proceeds from the 1999 partial settlement.  Through that process, The Governor approved 121 grant projects totaling $112 million.  These approved grant projects will improve water, fish and wildlife resources, public drinking water supplies, and natural resource-based recreational opportunities such as hunting, fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching.

In December 2011, Governor Schweitzer approved a new process for expenditure of the 1999 settlement funds that will involve the completion of groundwater, aquatic, and terrestrial restoration plans by the end of 2012.

In addition to funding grant projects, the state has used 1999 settlement monies for special projects such as restoration planning for the Milltown Dam and the Silver Bow Creek watershed.

Silver Bow Creek Injured Area

Silver Bow Creek Restored Area

Through June 2011, the governor of Montana has approved 120 Upper Clark Fork River Basin restoration projects for funding totaling $122.5 million, including the Milltown Restoration Project($13.5 million).

Upper Clark Fork River Basin
Restoration Work Plans

Annual Project Reports and Evaluations – This table includes all projects approved but not necessarily implemented. In 2001, the Rocker project was approved for $719,000 and was ultimately withdrawn. In 2005, $1.7 million was approved for the Anaconda Waterline but later reduced in scope and only $1 million was implemented. This table does not include the Milltown Restoration Project.

Funding Year Number of Projects Approved Total Funding Related Documents
2010 9 $9.5 million
2009 12 $14.0 million
2008 11 $13.6 million
2007 8 $11.9 million
2006 5 $5.0 million
2005 7 $8.5 million
2004 6 $4.7 million
2003 5 $3.4 million
2002 4 $8.8 million
2001 6 $5.3 million
2000 8 $7.0 million
2001 to 2009 41 $0.86 million
  • Project Development Grants and Small Projects: summaries and evaluations of these projects for $25,000 or less are available upon request from NRDP

Financial Reports

The Natural Resource Damage Program prepares quarterly status report with details on investment types and fund status: