The Clark Fork Coalition took an aerial tour with EcoFlight over the Upper Clark Watershed in Montana, to talk about increasing future water flows, as long-range planning is being finalized for a $100 million state Natural Resource Damage Program (NRDP) fund to restore the upper Clark Fork River drainage.
The NRDP money comes from the state's court settlement with mining companies that dumped millions of tons of contaminated tailings into Silver Bow and Warm Springs creeks during the 20th century. Over the years, those heavy-metal laden soils have flushed into the Clark Fork, killing fish and vegetation along riverbanks and poisoning drinking water aquifers.
Millions of dollars have already been spent removing toxic materials and replacing lost habitat. In addition, plans include increasing the amount of water in Clark Fork tributary streams to improve trout breeding areas and boost water quality in the main river.
The Clark Fork Coalition and many partner groups, elected officials and citizens see both a need and a unique opportunity to restore a targeted network of Upper Clark Fork tributaries to ensure the overall long-term success of the cleanup investments currently underway.