Milltown, MT: Dam Removal and River Restoration


[MUSIC} Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
Home to some of the largest natural resource deposits in the world, the beautiful Clark Fork River
basin has a proud legacy of mining and was at one time the economic backbone of the state. Mike Kustudia, Milltown Park Manager: There’s
10,000 years plus of human history here at the confluence of the Clark Fork and Blackfoot
Rivers. Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
The Blackfoot and the Clark Fork is an area of great historical and cultural importance to the
tribes. It was known in the Salish language as The Place of the Big Bull Trout. Mike Kustudia, Milltown Park Manager: Merriwether
Lewis passed through here in 1806, the Mullan Expedition camped out here in the 1860s, kind
of the story of industry , you know, and how that developed a lot of western Montana. Judy Matson, Bonner-Milltown History Center:
This area provided timbers for the mines in Butte. The copper mines in Butte were supplying copper
for the electrification of America. Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
In 1908 the Milltown Dam was completed. In June of 1908 a flood of historic proportions came
down the Clark Fork River. Contamination was copper, arsenic, and other heavy metals. Over time
the arsenic in those sediments worked its way into the local drinking water supply. Gary Matson, Community Council: The initial
reason for the Superfund site designation was groundwater contamination and the primary
area of that was in the Milltown area itself. Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
The Milltown Reservoir Superfund Site was one of the first Superfund sites in the country, and
the very first one in Montana. Jean Curtiss, Missoula County Commissioner:
The floods in 1996, especially, showed us that dam was in danger and what went over the top scared us
all. Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
We had a fish kill that refocused EPA’s attention and for the first time EPA considered dam removal
as an option. Mike Kustudia, Milltown Park Manager: Tribes
were a key partners — the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes — and then, you know, thousands
of Missoulians and Montanans, you know, chimed in with their support for dam removal. Jean Curtiss, Missoula County Commissioner:
Under the reservoir, for 100 years, you know, there were stumps, and some of them are still visible,
but there were willows that grew on their own 100 years later. [MUSIC] Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
One of the hallmarks of this project are the three R’s – Remediation, Restoration, and Redevelopment.
By knowing where we wanted to end up with redevelopment, we could then tailor our remediation
and restoration to kind of literally lay the groundwork for future redevelopment efforts. Jean Curtiss, Missoula County Commissioner:
One of the things that EPA helped us do which I am so thankful for is to form what we call the Working
Group. We told them they’d only have to meet a few times. I think they’re still meeting (laughs). Gary Matson, Community Council: We would make
drawings and we’d have ideas and all of those ideas formed a concept, which is now the Milltown
State Park. Mike Kustudia, Milltown Park Manager: You
know, you just have to imagine that a lot of this was once flooded with the reservoir. We’ve got about
a 535-acre park here. It’s a park in the rough at this point but we’re getting it developed. The vision
is a lot of recreational opportunities – trails, river access. [Talks to park-goers: “Yeah, have a look
at that sometime if you like”… “All right, thank you”… “You bet!”] Jean Curtiss, Missoula County Commissioner:
The recreation economy is very important to Montana and especially in Western Montana. Judy Matson, Bonner-Milltown History Center:
In addition to clean water for everyone, and a free- flowing river – which are wonderful – historic
preservation has been a super success story. Gary Matson, Community Council: We have opportunities
now that we didn’t have before. Before, we had a blighted area with contaminated groundwater. Mike Kustudia, Milltown Park Manager: We have
to think about the future and water is a big part of our future; of course, in our lives in general
[TEXT ON SCREEN: U.S. EPA estimates the water will soon be safe to drink], and reclaiming the groundwater
in Milltown has definitely got a sustainability component to it. Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
The Milltown Project is a confluence of many things. It’s the confluence not only of the Blackfoot and
Clark Fork Rivers in western Montana, but it’s also the confluence of dedicated people and events. Mike Kustudia, Milltown Park Manager: Thousands
of people made this happen. Diana Hammer, U.S. EPA Project Coordinator:
If anyone wants to know more about what we did here at Milltown, please feel free to contact me. [TEXT ON SCREEN: [email protected]] [MUSIC]

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