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Draft plan procedures presented to complete and pay for Reed Point derailment cleanup

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Posted at 1:41 AM, Jun 27, 2024

REED POINT - One year later, questions and concerns still linger over the bridge collapse and train derailment near Reed Point.

That derailment sent 10 cars and hundreds of thousands of pounds of asphalt spilling into the Yellowstone River.

The Montana Natural Resource Damage Program is assessing the natural resource damages and presented the draft plan at the Stillwater Civic Center in Columbus on Wednesday night.

It's estimated about 420,000 pounds of asphalt spilled into the Yellowstone River and 236,446 have been recovered.

"EPA’s project manager when they first came on after the incident was, was thinking if they got 30 percent they would be doing well,” said Doug Martin, Natural Resources Damage Program acting program manager. “Thumbs up to the incident command and Montana Rail Link for getting, what they're estimating is 60 percent."

Martin said while that's a good amount, it's unknown how much more is out there and what the cost will be to recover that.

"The big question for us there is determining where that material is and what impact that material is having on the environment," Martin said.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment Work Plan states the goal is to make the environment and the public whole for injuries to natural resources and services provided by those natural resources.

"EPA and DEQ are looking at how to protect human health and the environment,” Martin said. “The natural resource damage program looks at the injury to the resources from those releases and looks at how we can actually try to recover those back to a baseline condition."

"So again, we'll use FWP fishing pressure data to see if there was a reduction in use of the Yellowstone because of the derailment,” said Sydney Stewart, NRDA environmental science specialist. “And then we'll assign a dollar value to the different ways people use the river recreationally.”

The program is asking for public comment on its draft plan which at this point is laying out the process.

"Is there a percentage of the recovered damages that goes back to?” one citizen asked.

"We do spend those funds where the damages have occurred," Martin answered.

"So I came here more to be informed and to be an advocate for something," said Tom Movius, a concerned citizen.

Public comment will be accepted until July 12.