In December 2011, Governor Schweitzer approved a Final Upper Clark Fork River Basin Long Range Priorities and Fund Allocation Guidance Plan that allocated about $110 million in natural resource damage settlement funds for the restoration of groundwater, aquatic, and terrestrial resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). That approval triggered the development of a Final Upper Clark Fork River Basin Interim Restoration Process Plan that describes the process the State of Montana used to develop restoration plans and fund restoration projects in the UCFRB using these allocated funds. This Process Plan is also summarized in a Fact Sheet issued May 2012. Pursuant to this Process Plan, the State finalized the groundwater, aquatic, and terrestrial restoration plans at the end of 2012.
The Governor makes all final decisions on all restoration plans and associated funding. Prior to a final decision, draft restoration plans are subject of a 30-day public comment period. In addition to public comment, the Governor considers recommendations from the Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP), the UCFRB Advisory Council, and the Trustee Restoration Council.
Groundwater Restoration Plans – Section 3 of Process Plan:
An estimated $30.1 million and $10 million is initially available for funding water system improvement projects in Butte-Silver Bow County and Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, respectively. The Counties developed draft Groundwater Restoration Plans that describe the water system improvement projects they propose to implement with this available funding over a time period not to exceed 20 years. These restoration plans are based on the priorities identified in the Counties’ drinking water system master plans and the NRD Funding Criteria. Subsequent restoration plans will cover any additional funding available through interest earnings.
In August 2012, both Counties submitted draft Groundwater Restoration Plans and presented them at the August 15, 2012 Advisory Council meeting. The plans were subject of public comment through September 21, 2012, considered by the Trustee Restoration Council at their October 12, 2012 meeting and approved by Governor Schweitzer on October 19, 2012. Below is the final approved plan.
In early 2013, Butte-Silver Bow reorganized its water utility division and subsequently reevaluated its water system upgrade priorities through a 2013 water master plan update. Butte-Silver Bow elected to proceed with only the Big Hole Transmission Line replacement portion of the approved October 2012 Groundwater Restoration Plan for $6 million. That work is underway, pursuant to a completed contract with NRDP.
In March 2014, the Governor approved a second Groundwater Restoration Plan that addresses the improvements to be made with the remaining $24.1 million of BSB’s total $30.1 million funding allocation. Final Butte Silver Bow Groundwater Plan – March 2014
The 2008 Montana v. ARCO Consent Decree allocated $28.1 million (M), plus interest, to restore, replace or acquire the equivalent of the injured groundwater and surface water of Butte Area One. The Governor created the Butte Natural Resource Damage Restoration Council (BNRC) to give the citizens of Butte a strong voice on how this fund should be spent. This nine member volunteer council is assisted by the Montana Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP).
In March 2012, the Governor approved a restoration process plan for Butte Area One proposed by the BNRC. The BNRC solicited restoration ideas for injured surface and groundwater resources in Butte Area One, pursuant to this process plan. In October 2012, the State produced a draft Butte Area One Restoration Plan that was developed by the BNRC, with the assistance of NRDP, and the subject to public comment. In January 2013, the Governor approved a final Butte Area One Restoration Plan as proposed by the BNRC. Provided below are links to these planning documents and restoration ideas submitted.
The December 2012 Butte Area One Final Restoration Plan allocates $1 million toward implementing future small projects and specifies a maximum amount of funding for any small project of $100,000. Eligible types of small projects include mine waste removal, mine waste area improvements, revegetation, stream restoration, municipal water system improvements, storm water, education or research projects that are specific to and can benefit from restoration of Butte area natural resources, or recreation projects that will provide or enhance public hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, or hiking opportunities.
Small project proposals will be solicited and funded on an annual basis. Project solicitation will occur in the fall and funding decisions will be made in the spring of each year to allow for project implementation during the construction season. The Butte Natural Resource Damage Restoration Council (BNRC), with assistance from the NRDP, will host an outreach workshop and make a call for small project proposals from the public. The NRDP, in consultation with the BNRC, will first screen each proposal to assure that it meets the legal threshold of restoring or replacing the injured natural resources of the Butte Area One site, namely groundwater and the aquatic resources of Butte Area One, and assure that it does not unduly conflict, duplicate, or overlap with other restoration and remediation projects. The BNRC and NRDP will then evaluate the eligible funding proposals using the evaluation criteria specified in the March 2012 Butte Area One Final Restoration Process Planning Document. Following consideration of input from the public and the NRDP, the BNRC will decide on its funding recommendations for small projects.
The BNRC’s funding recommendations, as well as input from the public and NRDP on those recommendations, will be the subject of consideration by the Trustee Restoration Council. The Governor will make the final funding decision. Opportunities for public comment on the funding of small projects will be provided at BNRC and Trustee Restoration Council meetings. The public notice for each of these meetings will identify the small projects to be considered at these meetings and will be issued at least 10 days in advance of each meeting.
The consideration of small projects for funding may continue on an annual basis through 2016, by which time all of the money in this account should be spent or allocated to specific projects. A match of funds would be strongly encouraged for this small project funding process.
The Final Butte Area One Restoration Plan (2012) dedicated over $3 million toward revegetation projects on the reclaimed areas of the Butte Hill. Nearly $500,000 had been spent on those efforts by the start of the 2015 planting season. In spring of 2015, the NRDP hired Herrera Environmental to conduct an independent evaluation of the revegetation projects to determine if they were successful, feasible and cost effective, and to make recommendations on how those revegetation efforts might be improved.
The recommendations the report below have two goals. The first is to improve the methods to more closely match the successful methods employed by the reclamation/restoration industry. The second goal is to provide suggestions to reduce costs and increase the amount of revegetation that can be conducted with available restoration funds.
The Butte Natural Resource Damage Restoration Council (BNRC) will provide recommendations to the Governor on how to spend the 28 million dedicated to restoration of the Butte Area One Site through the 2008 Consent Decree.
The Council consists of nine members, with six appointed by the Butte-Silver Bow Chief Executive and three appointed by the Governor.
Elizabeth Erickson, Chairperson