The Clark Fork unplugged

  MONTANA

On Montana's Clark Fork River, pressure is mounting to demolish a dam.


The Milltown dam sits seven miles upstream from Missoula, where the Blackfoot River and the Clark Fork meet. For years, it has acted as a plug, holding back 6.5 million cubic yards of sediment contaminated with arsenic and heavy metals washed away from mines and smelters in Butte and Anaconda, 120 miles to the southeast (HCN, 1/19/98: Turning the Old West into the New West).


Experts thought the dam was a safe repository for the drifting poisons. But in February 1996, a massive ice floe scoured the reservoir's bottom and filled the river with copper and other contaminants. Downstream fish populations took a nosedive.


The dam also prevents endangered bull trout from migrating up or down the river, and this spring the Environmental Protection Agency announced it may order the dam removed and the sediments cleaned up. The EPA has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which has studied breaching four dams on the Snake River, to evaluate the situation.


Local environmentalists, health officials and the Missoula County commissioners support the cleanup. Montana Power Company, the dam's owner, told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission it has no interest in generating electricity at the 2-megawatt plant, and has done nothing to dissuade the discussions of tearing it out.


If the dam is removed, truckers would have to move 150,000 loads of contaminated soil. The EPA has identified a potential dump in the hills north of Missoula. But at least one environmental group says the toxic sediments should be shipped back where they came from - to a Superfund site outside Anaconda.


"Any place is bound to be better than the confluence of two rivers," says Tracy Stone-Manning, director of the Clark Fork Coalition.


Copyright © 2000 HCN and Mark Matthews

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Wild Rockies Field Institute is seeking a visionary Executive Director to lead the organization in Missoula, Montana. Individuals with a proven track record in...
  • LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    The Land and Water Conservation Director is a full-time salaried position with the Mountain Area Land Trust in Evergreen, CO. The successful candidate will have...
  • ARIZONA PROGRAM MANAGER
    National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), the nation's oldest and largest national parks nonprofit advocacy organization seeks an Arizona Program Manager. The Arizona Program Manager works...
  • CROWN OF THE CONTINENT COMMUNITY CONSERVATION SPECIALIST
    THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY is seeking a Community Conservation Specialist, for the Crown of the Continent DEPARTMENT: Conservation CLASSIFICATION: Grade 6 Specialist/Representative (Low of $54K) REPORTS...
  • ASSISTANT FARM DIRECTOR
    About The Organization Building community through fresh vegetables is at the heart of the Sisters-based non-profit, Seed to Table Oregon. Based on a four-acre diversified...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, Hike the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • DYNAMIC EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    VARD is seeking an Executive Director to lead a small legal & planning staff dedicated to the health and sustainability of Teton Valley Idaho and...
  • WATER PROJECT MANAGER, UPPER SAN PEDRO (ARIZONA)
    Based in Tucson or Sierra Vista, AZ., the Upper San Pedro Project Manager develops, manages, and advances freshwater conservation programs, plans, and methods focusing on...
  • CAMPAIGNS DIRECTOR
    Southeast Alaska Conservation is hiring. Visit https://www.seacc.org/about/hiring for info. 907-586-6942 [email protected]
  • FINANCE & GRANTS MANAGER
    The Blackfoot Challenge, located in Ovando, MT, seeks a self-motivated, detail-oriented individual to conduct bookkeeping, financial analysis and reporting, and grant oversight and management. Competitive...
  • WADE LAKE CABINS, CAMERON MT
    A once in a lifetime opportunity to live and run a business on the shore of one of the most beautiful lakes in SW Montana....
  • CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, BOOKS, CULTURE AND COMMENTARY (PART-TIME, CONTRACT)
    High Country News is seeking a Contributing Editor for Books, Culture and Commentary to assign and edit inquisitive, inspiring, and thought-provoking content for HCN in...
  • STATEWIDE COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    ABOUT US Better Wyoming is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization that educates, organizes, and mobilizes Wyoming residents on behalf of statewide change. Learn more at...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    TwispWorks is a 501(c)3 that promotes economic and cultural vitality in the mountainous Methow Valley, the eastern gateway to North Cascades National Park in Washington...
  • CLEAN ENERGY ADVOCATE OR DIRECTOR
    Location: Helena, Montana Type: Permanent, full time after 1-year probationary period. Reports to: Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs. Travel: Some overnight travel, both in-state...
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Restore Hetch Hetchy, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization, seeks experienced development professional to identify and engage individuals and institutions who are inspired to help underwrite...
  • PUBLIC LANDS COUNSEL
    The successful candidate will be the organization's lead counsel on public lands issues, including reviewing federal administrative actions and proposed policy and helping to shape...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain