Endangered Species Act Places Montana Town at Risk After Dam Replacement Delayed for Grizzly Bear, Bull Trout Study
The Flower Creek Dam in Libby is leaking. It was set for repairs this year, however, Libby Mayor Doug Roll says that a recent delay by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is putting his city at risk.
"Well, the fact is that any kind of seismic event would probably cause collapse," said Roll. "There's even a possibility - though no one can tell for sure because we can't see inside the dam - that it could possibly fall itself, all on its own."
The dam not only keeps water flooding at bay, it provides clean water to a community of over 2,500 people. This means that if the dam were to fall there would be two emergencies to deal with at the same time.
In February of 2012, Roll says that an engineering firm began the process of getting the dam replacement project approved by all of the various state and federal agencies. In late February, Roll says he received a response from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"It stated that there would probably be some minor impacts to bull trout and grizzly bear habitat area, but because of the location of the dam,they felt that there was no problem and no further action was necessary," said Roll.
Mayor Roll says he was led to believe by emails that the above statement was an informal section 7 consultation for the Endangered Species Act. However, the agency later changed its mind.
"We received contact stating that that was incorrect and that we were going to have to begin consultation on bull trout, grizzly bear, and lynx," said Roll. "We sat down and talked to these folks and I said 'What is going on here? You guys are putting the citizens of this community in danger by, all of the sudden, requiring something that we thought we had already finished."
Roll said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife personnel "didn't know what to say" and simply stated that the original declaration from their office was "unfortunate advice."
The project is now officially delayed. Mayor Roll says that this week, July 7, Rural Development announced that they would not be issuing a loan for the dams replacement. Roll says over a month ago he had a lawyer draft a letter and send it to the local Fish and Wildlife branch to point out the inappropriate process the agency had taken, but has not received a reply.