Posted: Mar 1, 2013 4:26 PM by Katy Harris KXLF News
Updated: Mar 4, 2013 9:57 AM
BUTTE - One of the largest cleanup projects in the country will be a $5.6 million Clark Fork River restoration. The multi-phase project is scheduled to start on Monday.
A 47-mile long cleanup project will remove 330,000 cubic yards of mine waste from the stream banks and floodplain.
The flood of 1908 washed mine waste from Butte and Anaconda into the Clark Fork River.
DEQ Upper Clark Fork River Project Manager Brian Bartkowiak says, "This poses a human health problem from arsenic and lead and an ecological problem from copper and zinc."
Just a few feet off the river bank of the Clark Fork River and you can tell that there is vegetation that is struggling to grow and even the vegetation that is growing is decadent and dying because of the mine waste deposits.
The first phase of the project will start at the confluence of Warm Springs Creek and the Mill Willor Bypass and go on to Garrison. Bartkowiak says the project has been a long time coming and will last 300 construction days.
"While this is under construction it will look like a bomb went off," he says.
The current floodplain is higher than it should be because the mine waste settled on top of the pre-existing floodplain.
DEQ will lower the floodplain to create river access to the floodplain.
"After the floodplain is put together we will plant it with native vegetation, seed it, we will be creating little micro-topography or wetlands and swales. In a few years after construction this will all be nice and green," adds Bartkowiak.
He says this is a project that the entire state should be proud of once it's complete.
"This is going to have benefits both economically through the restoration economy. It should bring recreation to the upper basin and improve the water quality of the clark fork river and make it a safe and healthy river for everybody to enjoy," says Bartkowiak.
Phase 1 of the project should be finished at the end of this year but have final plantings in spring of 2014.