Montana and mining companies to fund massive river cleanup, restoration

An historic financial settlement between the state of Montana and two mining firms has opened the door to a project of ecological scope virtually unprecedented in the U.S.: the removal of Montana’s Milltown dam, located at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot rivers, and the restoration of those rivers to their natural, free-flowing states. The $100 million deal resulted from three years of closed-door negotiations; the consent decree will now be available for public comment. Work could begin this fall and be completed by late 2009. Tons of contaminated mud, a toxic legacy of the region’s mining industry, will need to be dredged from behind the dam, which is located in the center of one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites. Pressure from the public was key to getting all the parties to negotiate and create a big-picture solution, said local rivers advocate Tracy Stone-Manning.