Meetings to discuss Kootenai watershed mining

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The Kootenai River Network will hold two public meetings in Northwest Montana next week to discuss coal mining operations in British Columbia’s Elk River Valley, and how they could impact Montana water quality.

The Elk River flows for about 220 miles from north to south, beginning at Elk Lake Provincial Park and flowing into the Kootenai River just north of the U.S.–Canada border. Vancouver-based Teck Coal owns five coal mines in its watershed, and environmentalists allege that their pollutants flow downstream to Montana.

Next week’s meetings, which will take place in Kalispell and Eureka with the same content, format, and agenda, will bring together government and industry speakers to discuss these concerns.

The Kootenai River Network has assembled a panel with representatives from Montana’s Departments of Environmental Quality and Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the British Columbia Ministry of Environment, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and State Department, the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, and Teck Coal.

At both meetings, a moderator will ask the panel about topics that include: the contaminants of concern and their sources; the mines’ compliance with U.S. water quality laws; possible impacts on Montana fisheries; plans in place to limit future pollution; how Montanans can have a voice in the process; publicly available information sources.

Audience members will be able to ask panel members questions, and speak with them one-on-one following the event.

The first meeting will be held at the Eureka High School auditorium, located at 340 9th St., on Monday, Oct. 16 from 7-9 p.m. The second meeting will occur at the same time on Tuesday, Oct. 17, in the Glacier Room II of Kalispell’s Hilton Garden Inn, located at 1840 U.S. Highway 93 South.

More information can be found on the Kootenai River Network’s website, www.kootenairivernetwork.com.

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