A Montana program created to restore land damaged by a century of mining has released its plan to spend $65.5 million restoring the upper Clark Fork River Basin.
The Montana Department of Justice's Natural Resource Damage Program has doled out annual grant awards for 10 years, using money from a court settlement over mining damage to the 325,000-acre region. The program's outline for spending the remaining settlement was released Wednesday.
"I feel like there should be a drum roll going on," Carol Fox with the program told the Missoulian ( http://bit.ly/QsuK5V). "These proposals merit a deep look, not a superficial one."
The $65.5 million includes more than $45 million for aquatic projects and $20 million for terrestrial ones. About 10 percent of each pot will go toward recreation enhancements, and the rest will go toward projects like fish screens, conservation easements and habitat improvement.
Bill Rossbach, chairman of the Upper Clark Fork Remediation and Restoration Advisory Council, said the council required that all the proposals have a direct impact on damaged lands or their surroundings. That meant ideas like an $8 million pedestrian bridge across the Clark Fork near Bonner didn't make the final cut because it wouldn't improve the river.
"This is the home stretch of a long process," Rossbach said. "We had 80 proposed projects. But we haven't had a look at the specifics until now."
The aquatic funds will be used in 12 watersheds, including the Little Blackfoot River, Flint Creek and Warm Springs Creek. Terrestrial projects include land around Drummond, Garrison, Deer Lodge and Philipsburg.
The complete plan can be found on the Internet.
Public comment on the proposals will be accepted through Oct. 26. Gov. Brian Schweitzer may give final approval to the plan in December.
Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com