A two and a half mile section of the Clark Fork River near Missoula was opened for fishing and floating today – another step in the ongoing restoration of the river since the Milltown Dam was removed five years ago. The restored river channel is part of a decades-long Superfund cleanup effort involving state, federal and private efforts. The executive director of the Clark Fork Coalition, Karen Knudsen, points out it’s been a long time since anyone could float the river from Turah to Missoula
.”It’s been over a hundred years,” said Knudsen. “First we had Milltown Dam blocking that confluence, then the cleanup project got underway in 2006. So a lot of people have been eagerly waiting for this moment.”
The state Natural Resource Damage program has overseen much of the river restoration. Environmental Impact Specialist Doug Martin says the public and private partnership that has led to the cleanup is an example to follow. Tracy Stone Manning is head of the state Department of Environmental Quality, and former head of the Clark Fork Coalition. She credits the positive attitude of the many local, state and federal officials who worked on cleaning up the formerly polluted river.
“I think people checked their cynicism at the door, and they saw the vision,” Stone Manning said.
A flotilla of rafts and fishing boats set out from the Turah fishing access site to mark today’s historic opening.