Middle Fork of Flathead River rated ‘most endangered’

Middle Fork of Flathead River rated ‘most endangered’

Source: NBC Montana
Click here to read the article: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/kcfw/middle-fork-of-flathead-river-rated-endangered/448347276

By: Christopher Salas

KALISPELL, Mont. – An environmental group, American River, released a report April 11 that says the Middle Fork of the Flathead River is one of the most endangered in the country.

The report makes the designation because of an increasing number of crude oil trains that travel from the oil fields of North Dakota to the pacific coast.  The track is owned by Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and it runs along the Middle Fork, skirting the southern boundary of Glacier National Park.

BNSF spokesman Ross Lane disputed the American Rivers report, telling NBC Montana they have a Geographic Response Plan they provide to the Federal and State governments.  Lane told us the plan isn’t available to the public.

NBC Montana was able to obtain a 54-page packet BNSF uses to train over 700 first responders. 

Lane says they inspect their busiest lines like the Flathead River Middle Fork line daily and the company has invested hundreds millions of dollars in preventative measures.  Lane claims the work has paid off in fewer derailments.  He says, “The rail industry has never been safer in its history.”

We checked the reports.  In 1975 there were 110 derailments.  Last year that number was only 10.

You can check derailment and accident statistics here.

Darwon Stoneman said he is not surprised by the American River report.

“There’s 35,000 gallons of oil in each one of those cars,” says Stoneman.  “There’s 100 cars on a train, and there’s three or four of those trains that go by here a day.”

Stoneman owns Glacier Raft Company.  His business depends on the river.

“For us it’s really our livelihood,” Stoneman said. “Without it we’d have to do something else.”

On average, Flathead County sees 14 crude oil trains pass through every week.

Montana Rail Link runs the line through southern Montana.  They pass through Missoula and Gallatin Counties with an average of 7.5 trains a week.

To see more information on how often crude oil trains travel click here.

We also found Rail Link manifests on line.  You can review them for yourself.  Just click here.