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Field reports: Milltown Dam cleanup ends; Wedge wolf costs significant

RIVERS – Federal and local officials gathered this week to mark the end of a $100 million cleanup and restoration at Milltown Superfund site on the Clark Fork River upstream from Missoula.

Removal of the century-old dam and toxic mining sediments in an unprecedented scope was funded by a settlement with Atlantic Richfield Co.

Removing the dam eventually will be a boon to Clark Fork River native fisheries, state biologists say, but Missoula fly-fishing guides say aquatic insect hatches down from the dam site continue to be depressed.

The first advisory group meetings paving the way for the project were held in 1989 after arsenic was found in Milltown’s drinking water.

The Superfund work began in 2006 when crews began rerouting the river to drain the reservoir and expose the sediment contaminated by toxic waste flowing down the Clark Fork River from Butte-area mines.

In 2007, trains began hauling tons of sediment to holding ponds at Opportunity.

Milltown Dam was breached in 2008 and completely removed the following year. Since then, bulldozers scraped away the waste, dug new river channels and re-contoured the flood plain.

A state park is being developed at the site.

Wedge Pack gone; more coming soon

WILDLIFE – Washington Wildlife officials this week wouldn’t estimate costs of the effort to stop wolves from attacking cattle in northern Stevens County this summer and fall.

When other tactics failed, six Wedge Pack wolves were killed in four days of costly helicopter gunning near Laurier.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials in the field were not talking to reporters, but information obtained from the agency indicated:

• Officers, biologists and supervisors worked sometimes day and night for nearly three months of hazing and lethal removal.

• At least one biologist was redirected full time on wolves rather than doing big-game surveys.

• Some staffers have so much overtime they’re not likely to recoup it all.

Dave Ware, Game Division manager, said a total of seven Wedge wolves were killed since Aug. 7 and a pup was found dead of undetermined causes.

“Could there be other wolves out there? Yes,” he said. “If we get tracks or howling a couple of months from now, it may not be a member of this pack. It could be more wolves dispersing from Canada. We’d approach that case differently. Wolves are going to come back to the wedge sooner or later. It’s good habitat.”

Ware said the agency continues to monitor for wolves and will work with ranchers to develop non-lethal methods of preventing attacks.


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