Butte teen takes the helm of project to protect Silver Bow Creek

Butte teen takes the helm of project to protect Silver Bow Creek

Source: Montana Standard
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Susan Dunlap

Teenager Taryn Stratton is a good example of how a single drop of water can have a ripple effect.

Taryn, now 14, is getting ready to leave her mark on Butte in a way that’s unusual for someone her age. The Butte native, angler and hunter is getting ready to help raise awareness to protect Silver Bow Creek.

And she made a power point presentation, all by herself, to deliver to the state to do it.

The state is awarding Taryn $1,278 to put 300 decals on storm drains across Uptown Butte this summer. Taryn received her letter from Gov. Steve Bullock informing her of the award late last month. Bullock called Taryn “an inspiration to not only the young people of Butte but also to the people of Montana.”

The money will pay for the markers, the adhesive and a wire brush to scrape the pavement before application.

She plans to begin the project of putting the markers on each storm drain along Uptown Butte — from Shields Avenue to Emmet Street and from Mercury to Quartz Street — later this summer. The markers are intended to remind residents that what goes down a street’s drain winds up in Silver Bow Creek.

Matt Moore, who oversees Butte’s sewer system, said there is no catchment system to clean storm water before it lands in the creek. So how clean the street is will affect how clean the creek is.

“If you fish, you want the fish to come from clean water,” Taryn told The Montana Standard Wednesday.

Taryn’s inspiration for the project came when she visited other towns last year in Washington state and in Montana where she saw the markers in place.

But the seed for the project may have been planted in another way.

While in middle school, Taryn participated in Montana GEMS — Girls Excelling in Math and Science — and went through the Clark Fork Watershed Education Program — better known by its acronym CFWEP. She dissected frogs and fish and helped pick up trash along the creek and in other areas through these programs.

She also discovered science is cool.

Now the aspiring wildlife biologist wants to do her part to protect the creek. She plans to have the first phase of the project complete by late September or early October.

But that’s not Taryn’s only plan. For the second phase of her project, she needs you.

Next summer she expects to be coordinating volunteer businesses and civic organizations to expand the project to put around 2,000 markers across Butte’s storm drains.

If she completes that initial phase of the project this summer, she will receive an additional $6,147 in grant money from the state. That money will go to pay for the additional 2,000 markers to place on storm drains all the way to Elizabeth Warren Avenue, said Natural Resource Damage Council Restoration Program Chief Doug Martin.

Taryn will be seeking possibly as many as 20 businesses and organizations to help her with the second phase of her project.

Taryn applied for a grant with the Butte Natural Resource Damage Council last spring. The group oversees money that came through a state settlement with Atlantic Richfield in 2008 to compensate Montanans for lost resources caused from over a 100 years of mining and smelting.

Taryn’s father, Dave Stratton, helped her with her grant application, but the night of her presentation, he couldn’t attend. So Taryn, then 13, got up and gave her power point presentation before the nine-member board, plus the public attending, all by herself.

Martin said from his Helena office Wednesday that Taryn “hit all the points she needed to hit,” and that she put together a “very good” application.

Butte Natural Resource Damage Council board member Chad Okrusch said he was “impressed” by Taryn’s presentation and called funding her project a “no-brainer.”

Okrusch recalls a time when Silver Bow Creek was dead. He said making people aware of the fact that what goes down a storm drain winds up in the creek is important now that the creek is alive with fish.

The fact that Taryn is so young didn’t matter, said Okrusch.

“That project would’ve been funded if she was 80,” Okrusch said. “It was a good project on its own merits, but it was charming to see a young person with that much initiative and a parent paying attention.”