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Friday, April 14th
8:30 AM

2000 State of the River Report

Vicki J. Watson, University of Montana - Missoula

8:30 AM - 9:00 AM

9:00 AM

Montana Nautral Resource Damage Program: Upper Clark Fork Restoration Grant Funding - A Pilot Year

Carol Fox, Montana Natural Resource Damage Program

9:00 AM - 9:30 AM

Through partial settlement of its natural resource damage lawsuit against ARCO in 1998, the State obtained approximately $130 million for restoration of injured natural resources in the Upper Clark Fork River Basin (UCFRB). In 1999 the State of Montana developed a draft UCFRB Restoration Plan that provided the framework for expending these restoration funds. The State revised the draft based on input from the UCFRB Advisory Council and public comment and finalized the Restoration Plan in February 2000. Rather than embarking on a prescriptive process, the State elected to establish a granting process whereby various entities could apply for restoration funds based on procedures and criteria set out in the Restoration Plan. The criteria are aimed at funding the best mix of projects that will restore or replace the natural resources that were injured, and/or services provided by those resources that were lost, due to releases of hazardous substances from mining and mineral processing operations in the UCFRB. Among the preferences are those given to projects that actually restore injured natural resources and provide for ecosystem considerations.

The State is now testing this granting process with its launch of the Pilot Year 2000 Grant Cycle in February 2000. The State set out restrictions for the Pilot Year 2000 grant cycle that limit grant funding to $7 million (annual interest revenue), limit the number of projects to a range of between ten and twenty, and require demonstration of pilot year “urgency.” Restoration grant applications are due on April 14, 2000 and final funding decisions are expected in December 2000. The granting process is complicated by on-going natural resource damage litigation and Superfund remedy determinations. Based on lessons learned from what works well and does not work well in the Pilot Year, the State, in consultation with the UCFRB Advisory Council and other entities, will propose revisions to the Restoration Plan for the next grant cycle that will be subject of public comment. Stay tuned as we evolve a process that, combined with other restoration initiatives, will lead to a healthier UCFRB ecosystem.

9:30 AM

Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Plan: Clark Fork River VNRP - Collaboration to Improve Water Quality

William H. McDowell, Tri-State Water Quality Council

9:30 AM - 10:00 AM

The Clark Fork River Voluntary Nutrient Reduction Program (VNRP) is a landmark 1998 agreement to reduce nutrient pollution in the Clark Fork River from Butte to the Flathead River confluence. The agreement allocates nutrient discharge into the river between three municipal wastewater treatment plants (Butte, Deer Lodge, and Missoula), one industrial discharger (Smurfit-Stone) and Missoula County (regulates many septic systems).

Excess nutrients and algae are among the most widespread problems in the basin. Nutrient reduction plans have also been developed for the Flathead basin and Lake Pend Oreille. The goal of the Clark Fork VNRP is to improve water quality by eliminating excessively high levels of attached river algae. Each of the signators to the Clark Fork VNRP agreed to make major financial investments to achieve this goal. Over $80 million will be invested in these projects, although much of this investment also helps protect drinking water or has other benefits.

A monitoring plan for algae and nutrients has been put in place for the river mainstem by the Tri-State Water Quality Council (the Council), the entity which facilitated the VNRP negotiations. Progress addressing nutrient-related problems will be formally evaluated every three years by the VNRP subcommittee of the Council, which includes a Montana DEQ representative.

The VNRP was accepted by the State of Montana and the Environmental Protection Agency as the functional equivalent of a nutrient-TMDL. It has special provisions which allow the signatories until 2008 to meet specific numerical targets for nutrients and algae in the river. Although only 4 major sources were involved in the initial negotiation, they are interested in obtaining the voluntary cooperation of other MPDES permit holders, watershed groups, and conservation districts to manage nutrients in the river and its tributaries.

As the VNRP moves into its implementation phase, many scientific and policy questions remain. Are the water quality targets attainable? Will population growth in the basin endanger the VNRP? How will the State manage other MPDES permits for nutrients? Will other projects, such as Superfund or the Natural Resource Damage Program positively or negatively affect the VNRP’s goals? Inquiring minds want to know.

10:00 AM

Dam Mitigation: Collaboration or Confrontation? Take Your Pick: Clark Fork Projects Hydro Relicensing

Joseph Dos Santos, Avista Corporation
Tim Swant, Avista Corporation

10:00 AM - 10:30 AM

In the United States, privately owned hydroelectric facilities operate under fifty year licenses issued and administered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). The usual process of license renewal involves consternation, confrontation, and litigation, resulting in delayed environmental mitigation and damaged professional relationships. Faced with the upcoming relicensing of two large hydroelectric facilities in the year 2001, Avista Corporation (formally Washington Water Power Company) knew that there had to be a better way. In February of 1999, Avista Corporation filed a renewal application culminating seven years of environmental studies and consultation with state and federal agencies, tribes, local government, landowners, and special interest groups. The heart of the application is the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, representing consensus among 27 parties on all environmental and operational issues. The Settlement Agreement, based on the principles of adaptive management, provides for greater local control, allows for early implementation of natural resource enhancements (March 1999), provides for the management of dynamic resources through the new term of the license, and establishes long term, collaborative working relationships. This Clark Fork collaborative is nationally recognized as a model for FERC’s recently adopted alternative approach to relicensing. A better way.

Bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) recovery is a key issue in the relicensing of the Clark Fork projects. Listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, bull trout are the subject of a comprehensive restoration plan developed by the collaborative participants. Avista Corp. funding of fisheries programs in northern Idaho and northwestern Montana will benefit all native salmonids, but with a particular emphasis on bull trout.

10:30 AM

Fisheries Restoration: Clark Fork Basin - State of the Fisheries

Chris Clancy, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

10:30 AM - 11:00 AM

The condition of the Clark Fork Basin fishery is best described as mixed. While some areas are improving, others are in considerable trouble and likely getting worse. But positive actions are increasing, including community and landowner-supported stream restoration efforts and use of conservation easements to protect and enhance native fish populations. These positive actions struggle to reverse the negative effects of historic land uses and management while protecting the fishery from growing new threats. In particular, urbanization impacts increasingly demand action by FWP biologists.

Although the mainstem’s recreational fishery is dominated by introduced rainbow and brown trout, the importance of native species to the river’s health is increasingly recognized by the fisheries profession and the public. Overall, populations of some native species are increasing--most likely due to more restrictive fishing regulations in several areas. In the past decade, angler use of most of the basin’s rivers has increased dramatically--a development that has both positive and negative impacts.

A short summary of MFWP’s fishery restoration and protection efforts in the subbasins illustrates the variety of issues we face.

11:00 AM

U.S. Forest Service Ecosystem Restoration

Cindy Swanson, U.S. Forest Service - Northern Region

11:00 AM - 11:30 AM

No abstract available.