County moving forward with plans for former smelter, park in Black Eagle

Cascade County Commissioners and the environmental health division have been working the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Black Eagle community on the future cleanup of the community under the EPA’s Superfund program, particularly the roughly 540 acres formerly occupied by the Anaconda Company’s smelter and the iconic stack.

The work is related to plans for cleanup and potential improvement to the Art Higgins Memorial Park, trail connectivity and potential recreational development at the Superfund site in Black Eagle.

For nearly two years, the county and its consultants have been working on plans and gathering community feedback at multiple public meetings.

Draft plans for former smelter site include trails, mountain bike area, archery, folf and more

A final decision on the preferred management scenario has to be made, but according to the County Commission, the selection of a preferred alternative will happen within the next six months during a commission meeting.

The full report on the designs and management options is available here.

County staff and a commissioner have routinely attended meetings of the technical advisory group that has been established to assist the community with review of the EPA’s technical documents.

Public meeting on draft plans for former smelter site set for Nov. 14

The commission has also been seeking input on the community’s vision for trail connectivity and improvements to the Art Higgins Memorial Park.

Public meeting tonight on plans for former smelter site, Black Eagle Park

“Design ideas can help with the cleanup strategies outlined in the EPA’s Management Plan and might even help fund park improvements through cleanup activities,” according to a county release.

One of the goals in developing plans for future development and land use is to offer suggestions to the EPA for their cleanup plan and ideally, reduce costs if some development ideas can be implemented through the cleanup process.

The project includes developing a land management master plan concept for the area and determining what kind of long-term sustainability exists for the land use plans, in terms of managing and maintaining whatever is developed in that area, Cascade County Commissioner Jane Weber told The Electric when the project was starting in 2017.

Elizabeth Erickson, the WET project manager, said that often the remediation and cleanup plans are done long before any land use plans are done, but in this case, the timing was optimal to start land use planning first.

Water park among crowd favorites for ideas for former smelter stack, but cost could make it unlikely

Some waste will be left in place, so Erickson said they can design around that or if the county wants certain development in certain areas, they could potentially create cleanup plans around those plans.

The county applied for and received an EPA grant to contract with a consultant for site cleanup and land use planning.

In August 2016, the county approved a contract accepting the grant and authorizing the county to develop a request for proposals to:

  • Develop park plans and trail connection strategies for OU-1
  • Develop a land use master plan for OU-2
  • Explore long term management options for the land within OU-2

The county approved a contract in June 2017 with the consultant team of Water and Environmental Technologies Inc., L’Heureux Page Werner Architecture, Land Design Inc. and Community Development Services.

The consultant team began work in August 2017 and held public meetings in September and November 2018 to gather ideas from the public on what they’d like to see at the site.

During the November meeting, the consultants unveiled their draft plans, which included paved trails, secondary gravel trails and areas for mountain biking, archery and folf. The draft plans also include an amphitheater and large shelter for community use and events, as well as an interpretive center, smelter stack replica and smelter stack memorial.

Restrooms connected to utilities are included in the western areas of the park, which are closer to existing infrastructure, reducing cost. Vault toilets are included throughout the site. A tent camping area was also included in the draft plans.

In February 2018, the team presented their designs for Art Higgins Memorial Park bicycle/pedestrian connectivity design options along with other park improvements and designs for the former smelter site.

Last fall, the team published a report detailing the possible improvements and management structures for the site.

For question about the project, call Sandy Johnson, environmental division manager at the City-County Health Department at 791-9275.