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some of these things are not like the others

December 2, 2011

I’ve posted a good number of pictures here from my near-daily walks from my Bonner house through a hole in a fence up a logging road and around a corner into the Blackfoot River valley just upstream of its confluence with the Clark Fork. Here are two more, perhaps prettier than average, but typical.

an eddy scouring a circle in the ice just below the old Stimson mill site during an early freeze a couple of weeks ago

dead tree silhouetted against the sunset near the confluence

So I was a little surprised the other day to walk back there again and see this:

This is a state Department of Environmental Quality project, paid for by the Stimson Lumber Company and subcontracted to Missoula’s EnviroCon remediation contractors, to remove the defunct Stimson Mill’s old cooling ponds. The horizontal berm in the foreground is the foundational remains of the old Bonner dam, behind which was a small pond, segmented into several cells, one of which was used to let heated water from the mill cool before being released back into the main stream. The beds of those former ponds are full of concrete and logs and rip-rap and a century’s worth of refuse. As part of the ongoing cleanup of the confluence area, they’re being removed down to original riverbed alluvium. You can see the two Cats in the river, feeding diggings to a constant stream of dumptrucks driving up and down the riverbed to haul the stuff away.

The project may go on for up to two weeks, I was told. When I asked about the plumes of mud streaming downriver from the work, since there’s no apparent sediment mitigation in place, I was told that the work is being performed under a “temporary turbidity exemption,” and no particular impact to the fishery is expected because a) nothing’s spawning this time of year, b) the disturbance is expected to be brief, and c) it’s less than a mile before the downstreaming muck will get diluted by the influx of water from the Clark Fork.

I guess so. Still, a pretty striking thing to see, and there’ll be much more before the confluence is open to floaters, since three concrete bridge abutments just upstream are coming out next summer, and the crib foundation of the old Bonner dam still has to be removed at some TBA date.

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