In December 2011, Governor Schweitzer approved a Final Upper Clark Fork River Basin Long Range Priorities and Fund Allocation Guidance Plan that allocated about $110 million in natural resource damage settlement funds for the restoration of groundwater, aquatic, and terrestrial resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). That approval triggered the development of a Final Upper Clark Fork River Basin Interim Restoration Process Plan that describes the process the State of Montana used to develop restoration plans and fund restoration projects in the UCFRB using these allocated funds. This Process Plan is also summarized in a Fact Sheet issued May 2012. Pursuant to this Process Plan, the State finalized the groundwater, aquatic, and terrestrial restoration plans at the end of 2012.
The Governor makes all final decisions on all restoration plans and associated funding. Prior to a final decision, draft restoration plans are subject of a 30-day public comment period. In addition to public comment, the Governor considers recommendations from the Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP), the UCFRB Advisory Council, and the Trustee Restoration Council.
Groundwater Restoration Plans
An estimated $30.1 million and $10 million is initially available for funding water system improvement projects in Butte-Silver Bow County and Anaconda-Deer Lodge County, respectively. The Counties developed draft Groundwater Restoration Plans that describe the water system improvement projects they propose to implement with this available funding over a time period not to exceed 20 years. These restoration plans are based on the priorities identified in the Counties’ drinking water system master plans and the NRD Funding Criteria. Subsequent restoration plans will cover any additional funding available through interest earnings.
In August 2012, both Counties submitted draft Groundwater Restoration Plans and presented them at the August 15, 2012 Advisory Council meeting. The plans were subject of public comment through September 21, 2012, considered by the Trustee Restoration Council at their October 12, 2012 meeting and approved by Governor Schweitzer on October 19, 2012. Below are the final approved plans.
In early 2013, Butte-Silver Bow reorganized its water utility division and subsequently reevaluated its water system upgrade priorities through a 2013 water master plan update. Butte-Silver Bow elected to proceed with only the Big Hole Transmission Line replacement portion of the approved October 2012 Groundwater Restoration Plan for $6 million. That work is underway, pursuant to a completed contract with NRDP. In January 2014, Butte-Silver Bow submitted a second Groundwater Restoration Plan that addresses the improvements to be made with the remaining $24.1 million of BSB’s total $30.1-million funding allocation. This second plan is now available for public comment.
Aquatic and Terrestrial Restoration Plans
An estimated $65.5 million is initially available for funding of projects that will improve aquatic and terrestrial resources, respectively, and related public recreational services. In September 2012, the State produced draft aquatic and terrestrial plans. These draft plans, which were developed in consultation with fish and wildlife biologists, were subsequently the subject of public comment and consideration of the Advisory Council and Trustee Restoration Council prior to final approval by the Governor in January 2013.
To assist with the development of restoration alternatives for these draft restoration plans, the State solicited restoration concept proposals from the public, in recognition of the wealth of knowledge and relationships that other entities can bring to the restoration planning process. Through this solicitation process, which was first introduced in a February 2012 draft version of the Process Plan, the State requested that interested individuals and entities submit abstracts outlining their ideas for projects that would protect or enhance fishery or wildlife resources in Priority 1 and 2 areas or in the aquatic and terrestrial injured resource areas for which the State made restoration claims, or enhance recreational services associated with these resources, such as fishing, floating, hunting, wildlife viewing, and hiking. The State received 80 (see below) restoration concept abstracts by the June 15, 2012 deadline. In most cases, those proposals submitted by the public that fit with the State’s guidance in the 2012 Process Plan on encouraged types of projects were incorporated, either partially or fully, into the State’s proposed restoration actions covered in this document.
Abstracts of the 80 public proposals submitted (or a Summary Table ) are available for download or upon request from NRDP. Presentations of these abstracts done at the August 1, 2012 and August 8, 2012 Advisory Council meetings are also available.
The restoration plans describe how and when the proposed restoration actions will be implemented or further developed and what additional review and approval steps, if any, are needed. Some actions will be developed and implemented by the State and other actions will be developed and implemented by other entities in partnership with the State in a manner consistent with State procurement requirements.
The State will review and revise the 2012 Aquatic and Terrestrial Restoration Plans two years after the Governor’s approval, with the timing of subsequent revisions to be determined later. These revisions will also involve additional solicitations from the public of restoration concept proposals for potential inclusion in revised restoration plans.