The remedy and restoration of Silver Bow Creek (SBC) has been ongoing since 1999 as part of the Superfund actions coordinated by Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In 2000 NRDP and the Greenway Service District (GSD) formed a partnership with DEQ bringing a restoration component to the project that goes beyond the remediation required under Superfund. Since 1999, Silver Bow Creek has been transformed from a severely injured, nearly lifeless stream to an ecosystem that is recovering its original character and value. After 16 years of cleanup and over $130 million spent, the 25 miles of SBC reached completion in the summer of 2015. Approximately six million cubic yards of contaminated tailings were hauled to the Opportunity Ponds. Approximately 1,550 acres along the once barren SBC have been restored.
Since 2000, the Governors of Montana have approved GSD/NRDP grant applications totaling nearly $23.6 million to restore aquatic, riparian, wetland, and upland ecosystems within the entire SBC corridor. Wherever feasible, restoration actions were included in the remediation plans and designs and constructed by DEQ under a single contract. To date, GSD/NRDP expenses total approximately $19 million. The remaining $4 million in grant funds will be used for Greenway trail features, restoration improvements, and land purchases along the corridor.
Fish surveys show that populations of Westslope cutthroat, brook trout, sculpins, and suckers have reestablished in the once depauperated Creek. Shrub and grass planting efforts have enhanced the wildlife habitat from almost nonexistent before cleanup to an area which hosts numerous species of mammals (such as elk, deer, moose, beaver, muskrats, and mink), amphibians, reptiles and birds. Bird surveys, which NRDP initiated in 2005, have recently resulted in sightings of over 100 bird species, including bald eagles, osprey, swans, blue heron, and sandhill crane. Because most of the SBC floodplain will be owned by the public and will have a trail along SBC, the public will be able to enjoy the successful cleanup work along this restored and impressive 25-mile corridor. For additional information, please visit DEQ’s Silver Bow Creek/Stream Side Tailings webpage.