October 28, 2022
October 28, 2022
Commissioners Scott Blain, and Bill Bullock; and Administrative Officer Angela Newell were present.
2:00 pm Meeting with Congressman Rosendale. Stillwater County Commissioners Tyrel Hamilton and Jeff Ruffatto, Carbon County New Reporter Denise Rivette, Rock Creek Water Commissioner PJ Bertolino, State DES Jeff Gates, Disaster and Emergency Services (DES) Coordinator Cyrina Allen, Stillwater County DES Coordinator David Stamey, Red Lodge Mayor Kristen Cogswell, Fromberg Mayor Tim Nottingham, and Heather McDouwell from Sibanye-Stillwater Mine were in attendance.
Bullock provided an overview of the challenges on Rock Creek with the recovery. He noted many of the agencies are not properly staffed to facilitate the standard operating procedures for permitting. Noted the threats that have been made regarding withholding FEMA reimbursement. Frustration with various levels of approvals / reviews between various agencies and inconsistent information and lack of communication between the branches within Army Corps (regulatory, permitting, inspection, etc.)
Stillwater Representative noted significant changes in what is being expected of Conservation Districts and other permitting agencies. The linear approach from permitting offices has provided staffing to accommodate increased demand for their services.
Rosendale noted it is a much faster process to get the Farm Service Agency to help staff offices to provide permitting resources than to try and change Army Corps policies.
Discussion about the need to allow the emergency response work to be done now that there is low water, when things couldn’t be seen and addressed in July immediately following the flood when water was too high to even see what some of the issues were at that time. Stillwater noted their officials received similar threats of jail time, cease and desist, and withholding FEMA funding from Federal employees.
Discussion about who owns the water, the multitude of agencies involved in permitting the water, and the lack of responsibility of “owning” it. Commissioners emphasized it is a convoluted permitting process for even the folks that are familiar with it.
Discussion of native rock material being used to re-orient the water channel to where it was before the flood. Discussion about the cost savings of moving the rock around within the creek to re-establish the channel. Bullock noted nature of Rock Creek is akin to a large irrigation structure; all water is obligated for irrigation and many years the water does not make it to is confluence, Rock Creek does not have instream flow requirements.
Bullock noted like COVID, he would like to see the management of the disaster turned back over to local authorities to manage at the local level. Rosendale noted can help with State in the short term, but Addressing Army corps is not a quick fix.
Discussion of woody debris; the level of trees in the stream is almost unmanageable from Glacier Lake to Boyd and the need for a coordinated effort to address that on a creek wide basis. Bertolino noted the clearance for every bridge on the creek has been reduced. Stillwater Commissioners echoed the concerns with tree load and bridge clearance. Blain asked if the National Guard could do a training exercise to remove trees and other native material. Commissioners from both Counties agreed that normal runoff is likely to cause more flooding because of the significant debris load still in the waterways. Cogswell noted debris removal report and assessments have taken months and we are trying to be patient, but are running out of time before spring runoff. Stillwater DES noted now will be fighting Beaver dams and Ice Jams.
Discussion about the natural impacts and the hazardous materials that went into the creek from the flood and agreement that those things going into the water again next spring will have more natural impacts.
Rosendale tried to help hedge expectations. He is happy to help clear regulatory burdens to allow work to be done, but can not guarantee that that work will be reimbursed by FEMA.
Discussion about DNRC changes that require all other permits to be in hand before Floodplain Permit can be issued and the delays this change has caused for the permitting process.
Respectfully submitted: Angela Newell, Administrative Officer