MTPR

Clark Fork River

About 30 coal cars in a Montana Rail Link freight train derailed this weekend along the Clark Fork River in northwestern Montana.

MRL spokesman Joe Lewis says the derailment happened at about 11 p.m. Sunday near Noxon, just east of the Idaho border.

Man fishing in the Yellowstone River.
Flickr user: Mirrur Image (CC-BY-NC)

Warm water temperatures have triggered fishing restrictions on a 55 mile stretch of the Bitterroot River from Veteran’s Bridge on Highway 93 just north of Hamilton, downstream to the confluence with the Clark Fork in Missoula. The so-called ‘Hoot Owl’ restriction went into effect today.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Missoula-area Fisheries Manager Pat Saffel says those restrictions go into effect when river temperatures reach at least 73 degrees for three days in a row.

North American river otters.
Dmitry Azovtsev (CC-BY-SA-3)

At the end of last summer, as I sat in an eddy on the Clark Fork River, something furry and black caught my eye, moving as smoothly as the water itself. I was looking at a North American river otter. Remembering studying sea otters in elementary school, I wondered if I had just seen something rare for this region, and decided to do a little research.

Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.
Djembayz (CC-BY-SA-3)

The EPA gave an update Tuesday on their ongoing investigation of pollution levels at the now-defunct Smurfit-Stone pulp and paper mill just west of Missoula.

There’s still a lot to figure out at the former Smurfit-Stone mill in Frenchtown.

The plant that operated on the 3,200 acre site for over 50 years just downstream of Missoula on the Clark Fork River used all kind of hazardous chemicals.

Smurfit-Stone Container mill outside Frenchtown, Montana.
Djembayz (CC-BY-SA-3)

People concerned about the contaminated Smurfit-Stone paper mill site west of Missoula are meeting tonight in Frenchtown at 6:00 p.m. They're considering forming a Community Advisory Group to better communicate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The 3,200 acre Smurfit-Stone site was proposed for listing under the EPA's Superfund program in 2013 over concerns about soil and groundwater contamination.

Flickr user, Harold (cc-by-2.0)

The so-called Quiet Waters Initiative — a slew of proposals that could redefine recreation on some Montana rivers and streams — rocked the boat at the first of several public hearings this week hosted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The agency is taking comment on nearly 30 proposed regulation changes that would limit horsepower, set seasonal restrictions and outright ban motorized watercraft along some rivers and stream segments that feed into the Clark Fork, Flathead, Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers.

Flathead NatioFlathead National Forest to update forest plan, seeks public inputnal Forest To Update Forest Plan
U.S. Forest Service

Two otters slip down a riverbank to merge with the cool depths of the Madison. An angler casts into a limpid pool. Nearby, a kingfisher plunges and emerges from the riffles, a minnow draped through its bill like a mustache. The profusion of wildlife in and around Montana’s blue-ribbon trout streams is no accident.

For 75 years, arsenic-laced waste from some of the world’s largest copper-mining operations accumulated behind Milltown Dam, located a few miles east of Missoula. Then in 1983, the dam, along with 120 miles of the Clark Fork River, was designated as a Superfund site. The 30-year saga of dam removal and clean-up is the focus of a book by David Brooks:  Restoring the Shining Waters: Superfund Success at Milltown, Montana.

Sponges: These Aquatic Oddities Call Montana Home

Sep 20, 2015
Spongilla lacustris, a widspread freshwater sponge often found under logs and rocks in lakes.
Kirt L. Onthank (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

Although many people associate these stone-like animals with the crystalline waters of the tropics, several species of sponges do occur in lakes and ponds across North America, including those of western Montana. 

Freshwater diatom seen under a scanning electron microscope.
Courtesy UM Electron Microscopy Facility

The bottom of this shallow stream is covered with a complex community of algae, comprising many different species. Probably most abundant of all are the diatoms, many of which secrete a slippery mucus as they travel, leaving the rocks very slick.

A.J. Coulter guides fly fishing trips on rivers all around Montana. Recently, he’s been starting his trips earlier in the day to avoid angling in heat of the day so as to not catch unhealthy fish.
Corin Cates-Carney

Fish, and maybe you, are getting stressed out in this summer heat. But for fish, stress is made worse when, on top of trying to stay cool, they have to avoid eating a fly tied to a line.

In the heat wave of the past few weeks, guides and regulators have worked to protect fish during a time when fish are very vulnerable.

Shellfish In Montana: The Western Pearlshell

Jun 12, 2015

There are not many freshwater mussels west of the continental divide in Montana; in fact, there is only one native species here, the western pearlshell.

Flickr user nataliej (CC-BY-NC)

The first part of June brought badly-needed rain to Montana, but it's barely making up for a particularly dry month of May.

A restoration plan for the Upper Clark Fork Basin's largest wetland is now up for public review.

The Atlantic Richfield Company's draft wetland restoration plan is designed to address wetland loss related to mining and smelting contamination in the Clark Fork River Basin.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Courtesy EPA

It will take more time before we learn about potential cleanup options at a former paper mill in Frenchtown.

Today was the Environmental Protection Agency's original deadline for the site's prior and current owners to present a "good faith" cleanup offer. The plant was in operation since the 1950’s. It was most recently owned by the Smurfit-Stone Container. The plant closed in 2010 and was purchased by M2 Green Redevelopment in 2011.

A new study on the probability of more landslides at the Berkeley Pit Superfund site in Butte will be made public soon.

Last week Silver Bow County commissioners got a tour of the Butte Superfund site, led by Steve Walsh, an executive with Montana Resources. That company is actively mining for copper and molybdenum at the Continental Pit in Butte, but has operations at Berkeley Pit as well.

From a point high on the Berkeley Pit’s rim, Walsh pointed out where the company used to be more active there until last year.

Man Found Dead In Clark Fork River Was Shot

Aug 7, 2014
The investigation continues into an alleged arson at a fire station just outside of Kalispell.
Flickr user Ariane Middel (CC-BY-2.0)

Two people have been arrested and two others are wanted in connection to the Missoula Sheriff Department’s investigation into the death of Gilbert George Berry, whose body was found in the Clark Fork River Tuesday.

Officials say Kevin Joseph Lino, 27, is wanted for the charge of deliberate homicide, and are searching for Angela M. Marchese, also 27, who is a witness in the case.

Lino and Marchese are believed to be traveling in a white 2014 Ford Focus, with a temporary West Virginia Plate. 

The Sheriff's Office believes Lino is armed and dangerous.  

Conor Ballantyne

The Missoula County Sheriff's/Coroner's Office has identified the victim of yesterday's river recovery as 71-year-old Melvin Arthur Beedle. 

mt.gov

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality announced this week the first phase of the Clark Fork River cleanup near Warm Springs is mostly complete.

In this feature interview with Edward O'Brien, D-E-Q Director Tracy Stone-Manning, says this first of the 15-year project was a tremendous success.