Archive for November 28th, 2008

by jhwygirl

Groundwater sampling by the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA), from Lolo to Darby, found acceptable levels for both human and aquatic standards of pesticides, along with unacceptable levels of nitrates in one monitoring well.

You all know what nitrates are, right?

Some of you might remember me writing about how filthy the Clark Fork is – so filthy that I won’t allow my dog to swim in it – and anyone who is hitting the Bitterroot in late summer can tell you that the release of this recent MDA test isn’t really new information. It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out that Montana’s streams and rivers and waterbodies are in trouble.

Oddly enough, a few days after writing the above post about the Clark Fork being too filthy for my dog, there were a notable number of calls to the County Health Department inquiring whether the Clark Fork was clean enough for caller’s pets. And regardless of what Peter Nielsen has to say, I’ll err on the safe side and keep it to Lolo Creek and the Blackfoot especially when it comes to late summer.

This recent revelation by the Ravalli Republic and MDA does have me wondering – How many groundwater monitoring wells do we have here in Missoula? Who is monitoring them? How often are they monitored? What are the recent results? I mean – when Peter Nielsen declared, in September (late summer, folks) that the Clark Fork was “safe” for pets – was he just referring to arsenic levels (which are – to remind you – at question, regardless of what DEQ, EPA and County officials are telling us)?

In other words – who is monitoring nitrate and pesticide and all that other “stuff” we’re hearing about that is in our water? Stuff like prescription drugs like anti-depressants and other mind-altering drugs?

This is where I wish I were a journalist, folks – because not only am I asking for these specific tests from DEQ, MDA EPA, etc., this is the kind of stuff that I’m looking at find some lab students at the university and/or some independent water lab to test some water samples to tell me how the data compares.

Water quality isn’t something we should be screwing around with or delaying or assuming is fine. Do remember, too, that in a recent audit, the EPA is questioning MT DEQ’s ability to protect water quality.

So – with THANKS to the Ravalli Republic for printing a story that was not to be found in any of the other state’s papers today – I ask: What is Montana Without Clean Water?

Someone, please, make me a bumpersticker!

by jhwygirl

Let’s hope they do the right thing.

From today’s Helena Independent:

Lawmakers are again poised to take on the ticklish issue of public access to state waters from county bridges — a problem they failed to resolve two years ago despite wide public support.

This time, lawmakers of both parties are sponsoring bills intended to resolve the long-simmering issue, but some of the demons that doomed previous attempts still seem to linger: The Montana Stockgrowers Association, one of the most powerful cattle groups in the state, is lukewarm to the idea. And, despite talking about necessary “bipartisan” efforts, Democrats and Republicans who are pushing nearly identical bills, say they haven’t spent much time talking to people across the aisle about their ideas.

Beyond the fact that we’ve got dueling identical legislative bills, which gives me a strong deja vu of 2005 all over again, it’s not surprising to see that once again the Montana Stockgrowers Association has interjected itself into the public access matter once again.

In 2007, the MSA argued against the public access, despite the inclusion of funding grants, via FWP, that would have paid for the modifications needed to fences that block public out.

A briefing of the problem: Numerous public access groups have been advocating for reasonable public access to Montana’s streams and rivers – which are more and more often inaccessible because of private property which has fenced of water frontage areas – by walking down to them via unused public right-of-way which is adjacent to county bridges. Most county road right-of-ways are 60 feet (some are actually larger), while bridges don’t use that much – so there is adjacent areas next to these bridges that would allow for public walk-in access.

The problem is that property owners often fence to the bridges, making difficult if not darn-near-impossible to access rivers. The area is steep, often without vegitation, and can be dangerous to attempt access over and through this fence obstruction.

Now to be fair – this access issue has been ongoing for many years, and there are locations where people have cut or damaged fences to get to the river or stream, which has rightfully infuriated the owners of these fences because often they’re there to keep stock from getting out.

All it takes are a few bad apples in any group…..and that applies to all kinds of groups…

There are areas in the eastern side of the case where sportspeople have held “bridge-in’s” (for lack of any better word) where people have gathered, en masse, to access at specific points. Affected property owners have argued that allowing for this type of public access would create traffic hazards by having traffic parked along roadways.

Jennifer McKee’s piece goes through the recent Madison County case and the ludicrous argument that private property owners attempted to make – that county roadway width was 60 feet, but narrowed to the width of the bridge. The judge rejected that argument, but still allowed fences to be attached to the bridge. I can’t remember the logic, but I’m thinking it was because the public still had the ability to work their way through it (?).

Both bills currently proposed do essentially the same thing – they allow public access through existing fences, but Sen. Mike Cooney’s (D-Helena) bill places the burden of reconstructing any fences that are obstructions on the fence owner, with the assistance of FWP funds. Rep. Ken Peterson’s (R-Billings) bill places the burden of reconstructing any obstructive fences on FWP.

Now – I’ll leave you all to debate the merits of a state agency getting involved in reconstructing what is essentially private property, and in the other the state is merely providing the funds. In both cases, the public already has the right to be there.

But let’s hope some gosh darn common sense public benefit gets done up there in Helena this upcoming legislative session, and let’s hope this gosh darn common sense goal of providing the public reasonable public access along existing public access can make it through the gauntlet of committee meetings and survive the votes necessary to bear it to fruition.

While we’re at it, let’s hope our legislators – Republican and Democratic – don’t forget that outdoor recreation is the largest growing financial sector of economic growth in Montana…and in the West.

Hell be damned to the whining of the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

by Pete Talbot

Happy Thanksgiving

Indeed, we have so much to be thankful for — living in Montana, and hanging with family and friends — it’s a blessing. Problembear got it right but I have this Utopian dream that some day there won’t be any vets we have to thank. Peace.

On a lighter note, the first Grizzly playoff game is Saturday, and because it’s a holiday weekend and most of the students and many others are out of town, it’s a great opportunity to score tickets. Go Griz and beat those other Bobcats.

More Messina

I finally got around to reading last week’s New Yorker and there was an interesting piece on Barack Obama’s campaign strategy. Montana boy Jim Messina (Idaho and Colorado as well, but he came of age in Big Sky Country) was quoted often in the story. He was Montana Sen. Baucus’ chief of staff before being tapped as the Obama campaign’s chief of staff. Now he’s the deputy chief of staff at the White House (think Josh from West Wing).

On being in charge of Obama’s campaign budget Messina said, “I spend the money, so everything here’s gotta go through me to get spent, which is the best job ever. It’s like getting the keys to a fucking Ferrari.”

And there’s much more campaign analysis in the issue.

Yellowstone Club

Lots in the news lately about the the private ski area for the uber-rich that recently filed for Chapter 11. Here’s the latest from Bob Struckman over at NewWest.

Anyway, my ski buddies are all over this. One of them has an old, burned-out trailer he wants to haul up there. He figures since the club is having a hard time making payroll, security must be lax — just plop that trailer down in an empty lot and maybe get squatting rights.

I’m sure Yellowstone Club residents Bill Gates, Tiger Woods, Dan Quayle, et al., won’t mind.

A new low

It’s a sad story for the Iowa-based newspaper corporation that owns daily papers in Missoula, Billings, Helena, Butte and Hamilton, and also a number of weeklies. Lee Enterprises stock fell to $1 on Wednesday (down 91 percent from a year ago). That puts it in the penny stock realm and this can’t be good for those of us who depend on the newspaper for our morning fix. A weak press serves no one. Newspapers are part of the ‘fourth estate’ which keeps an eye on government and reports on daily happenings. This does not bode well for the public.

I also feel sorry for those employees, retirees and other Montanans who banked on Lee stock as a nest egg. It’s almost as bad as those folks who depended on Montana Power stock as a safe haven for the future.

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