Settlement over 2011 Exxon pipeline spill means millions in restoration for Yellowstone RiverSource: KTVQ
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By Jay Kohn – MTN News
The Yellowstone River near Billings will see millions of dollars worth of restoration work within the next few years.
The $12 million restoration plan is spelled out in a Final Environmental Assessment for the Exxonmobil Pipeline spill that occurred on July 1, 2011 near Laurel.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Attorney General Tim Fox jointly announced the approved plan between the state of Montana and the U.S. Department of the Interior on Thursday.
The restoration projects focus on helping the Yellowstone recover from natural resource damage from the Silvertip Pipeline rupture that occurred just east of the Highway 212 bridge south of Laurel.
The spill dumped 63,000 gallons of crude into the Yellowstone River before it could be stopped, spreading oil as far as 45 miles downstream of the rupture.
All total, Exxonmobil agreed to pay $12 million for natural resource damage.
That damage includes harm to fish, birds, aquatic and terrestrial habitat, as well as other aquatic life.
“This is a critical step in restoring the damages to Montana’s Yellowstone River and its surrounding communities and local economies,” said Bullock. “I’m pleased we are moving forward in our plan to protect one of the last, great, free-flowing rivers in the United States.”
Fox said he is excited to begin implementation of the plan.
“This plan will guide restoration of the Yellowstone River to improve natural and recreational resources of the river injured due to the spill,” said Fox.
The projects included in the action plan run the gamut from controlling invasive species, to removing riprap from the river’s banks, to removing side channel blockages to improve aquatic habitat.
Other projects include developing new public access, improving city parks and public lands bordering the Yellowstone and stabilizing river banks.
To assist with development of recreation projects, a locally-based ad-hoc Recreation Advisory Committee will be in charge of preparing an action plan on how to spend an additional $2.3 million for recreation along the river.
A public meeting will be held on Feb. 15, 2017, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Billings Red Lion Convention Center at 1223 Mullowney Lane.
The final plan will be presented at that time with opportunity for public comment and feedback.
The draft Recreation Project Plan will then be submitted to the governor for approval.
The final restoration plan, responses to comments, and additional information are available on the Montana Natural Resources Damage Program website at https://dojmt.gov/lands/yellowstone-river-oil-spill-july-2011.