Header Image

Butte Area One

Site History

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).

Butte Area One Restoration Ideas and Planning Documents

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 developed by the BNRC, with the assistance from NRDP, and subject to public comment. In January 2013, the Governor approved the final Butte Area One Restoration Plan as proposed by the BNRC.

Butte Area One (BAO) Restoration Plan & Amendments:
Related Documents:
  • BAO Data Gap Investigations Silver Bow Creek and Blacktail Creek Corridors SAP (2016)
  • Tech Memo SBC-BTC Riparian Corridors Data Gap Investigation (2016)
    • This technical memorandum presents results of soil, sediment, surface water, groundwater, and pore water sampling pertaining to characterization of mine wastes located at the Blacktail Creek (BTC) Berm area and within the historical floodplain deposits associated with the BTC and Silver Bow Creek (SBC) riparian corridors. These sampling results are being utilized to address data gaps and satisfy design needs for the integration of restoration with remedy of mining and mineral processing wastes in the SBC and BTC corridors and to support integration of restoration design.  Field methods and procedures used in this data gap investigation generally followed procedures outlined in the draft final sampling and analysis plan (SAP) and quality assurance project plan (QAPP) (Tetra Tech 2016a).In order to fill data gaps in information concerning the extent and magnitude of Tailings/Impacted Soils (T/IS) and to obtain additional data necessary for integration of restoration with remedy, Tetra Tech conducted a limited soil, surface water and groundwater investigation within the SBC and BTC corridors focused on the following data gaps identified in the Preliminary Conceptual Restoration Plan (PCRP) (Confluence 2015):
      • Further define extent and magnitude of T/IS within floodplain soils to assess waste areas and depths;
      • Characterize the near-surface aquifer to quantify construction dewatering requirements;
      • Evaluate COCs in the in-stream and pond sediments, surface water and the stream banks within the SBC and BTC Corridors to identify potential contaminant loading;
      • Collect additional groundwater quality data to define the extent of alluvial impacts and their potential impacts on post-restoration groundwater and surface water quality; and
      • Evaluate metals loading from alluvial aquifers to SBC and BTC riparian corridors.”
  • Preliminary Conceptual Restoration Plan Butte Area One (2015)
  • Final Response to Comments on Butte Area One Plan (2012)
  • Summary Table (2012) – 100 BAO Restoration Ideas
  • Abstracts (2012) – 100 Restoration Ideas Submitted by the public.
  • Response to Comments on BAO Draft Restoration Process Planning Document (2012)
Parrot Tailings Waste Removal

The Parrot Silver and Copper Company smelter operated along the north bank of Silver Bow Creek from 1881 to 1899. This smelter was located just east of the current day Butte Civic Center. It was one of finest and most efficient milling and smelting facilities in its day. The Parrot Smelter was demolished in 1906 but the slag dumps and tailings pile remained on site. In the late 1950’s, the Anaconda Company placed overburden from the Berkeley Pit on top of the Parrot Smelter site. In about 1978, Butte-Silver Bow built the County Shop Complex atop the site. Two ballfields were built atop the slag pile north of Civic Center Road.

The BNRC, worked with NRDP and the public to produce the Butte Area One Restoration Plan in 2012. This plan emphasized restoring the aquifer and protecting the Blacktail and Upper Silver Bow creeks by removing wastes left in place, including the Parrot Tailings.

In October 2015, Governor Bullock announced his intention for removal of the Parrot Tailings and the contaminated soil beneath them, as essential for the recovery of the alluvial aquifer and for the long-term protection of Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks. See the BAO Restoration Plan Amendment (2016) – Parrot Tailings Waste Removal. Since then NRDP has worked with numerous entities to facilitate the removal of the Parrot wastes.

Performance Monitoring Program
Parrot Tailings Waste Removal Project Funding Amendments (2019)
Access Agreements
  1. Parrot Newsletter #1 June 2018
  2. Parrot Newsletter #2 September 2018
  3. Parrot Newsletter #3 January 2019
Butte Groundwater

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.

Butte Hill Revegetation Evaluation Report (2015)

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 in 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.

Butte Hill Revegetion Evaluation Report, November 2015

Small Projects/Miscellaneous Projects

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.

2016 Small Projects

1 Blacktail Creek Non Point Nutrient Management
2 Blacktail and Basin Creek Watershed Resiliency

3 Alma Higgins Commemorative Competition and Celebration
4 Data Visualization of Upper Silver Bow Creek Corridor

5 Storm Drain Inlet Markers

6 Pilot Program for Cleaning Contaminants fromTailings at Diggings East 

7 Extending Public Outreach of Science Mine’s BNRC Exhibits
8 Evaluate and Design Best Management Practices to Improve Grove Gulch Water Quality

9 Copper Mountain Kids’ Fishing Pond
10 Basin Creek Reservoir Recreational Development 

11 Revegetation of the National Dump Site
12 Bacterial Soil Rejuvenation

13 Assessment of Nitrogen Loading in Silver Bow and Blacktail

14 Pore Water Sampling to Investigate Metals In Blacktail Creek and LAO

15 Microbial Activity in Silver Bow and Blacktail Creeks

16 Shift Change

17 Relationship Between Site Contamination and Revegetation Success

18 Restoration Management System for Projects in BAO 

19 Montana Tech Tree Greenhouse


On Thursday October 12, 2017, Butte Area One Small Project Sponsor Miss Taryn Stratton and Governor Steve Bullock installed a storm drain inlet marker on the corner of Broadway and Wyoming Streets in front of the Thornton Building in Butte. Read more about this impressive teen, see her inlet marker design, and read the Governor’s letter to her in this article.

Skip to content