DEQ holds Belgrade public meeting on YC pond spill


On June 16, at the request of Montana legislators in downstream communities, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality outlined factors leading to March’s Yellowstone Club wastewater pond spill. The DEQ also spoke about modifications to the pond design to address those issues and the spill’s environmental impacts.

Tom Livers, director of the Montana DEQ, said modifications to the pond include a monitoring system that will notify the Yellowstone Club when the water level drops rapidly and changes to the outlet pipe design to prevent ice from forming on it—one of the major factors leading to the pond failure.

Mike Suplee, DEQ water quality specialist, and Stephanie Lynn, education and communication coordinator with the Gallatin River Task Force, described the water sampling their respective organizations conducted. Ammonia standards were exceeded March 5 and turbidity levels “much higher than what you would see during a normal runoff” were documented from March 5-12, Suplee said.

Through late June, the Yellowstone Club will continue biweekly sampling of the affected watershed. After runoff concludes, they will reevaluate the frequency of their sampling program.
The Yellowstone Club has submitted a preliminary restoration plan to address the erosion that occurred during the spill.

An enforcement action against the Yellowstone Club, which will likely include a fine, is in the works.

“It’s really too early to comment on [an enforcement action], but we’ll be working on that,” Livers said, adding that the Montana DEQ is taking the lead on enforcement and that the Environmental Protection Agency would not be involved.

Questions asked by the approximately 20 people who attended the meeting at the Belgrade Community Library included whether or not the DEQ has access to the Yellowstone Club’s monitoring records—Livers said the DEQ would not routinely get them—and “how we can keep this from happening again.”

Chamber recognizes outstanding local businesses, entrepreneurs at annual dinner


BIG SKY – A well-rounded mix of Big Sky locals were recognized for their contribution to the community at the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce’s annual dinner on June 15.

David O’Connor, chair of the chamber’s board of directors, presented awards to builder John Seelye, banker Marie Rapp, grocery store owners Jackie and Mark Robin, and Dr. Jeff Daniels.

John Seelye of Big Sky Build was recognized as Business Person of the Year. O’Connor commented on the loyalty Seelye demonstrates in his interactions with clients and employees alike.

Seelye quipped, “I actually heard when I came up here, ‘Don’t pull a Trump.’ So I’ll keep it short and sweet: Unexpected and appreciated. Thank you.”

While introducing Business of the Year, O’Connor said, “An owner-operated businesses like the Hungry Moose is the foundation of [any] community.”

Jackie Robin, who owns the Hungry Moose Market and Deli with her husband Mark, expressed her appreciation and love for Big Sky. Twenty-two years ago, the Robins started what’s now the Hungry Moose Market and Deli as a roadside veggie stand.

Marie Rapp, a personal banker at American Bank, was recognized as Big Sky’s Outstanding Frontline Worker. “I love where I live, I love where I work,” Rapp said.

Dr. Jeff Daniels, who has been practicing medicine in Big Sky for more than 20 years, was recognized with the Chet Huntley Award Lifetime Achievement Award.

The nomination criteria for that award include “strength of character” and “a willingness to serve others with vision and purpose.” O’Connor noted Daniels’ commitment to patients and his reputation for compassion.

Custer Gallatin moves forward with forest plan revision


The U.S. Forest Service is hosting three webinars as well as meetings in West Yellowstone and Bozeman to update the public on its forest plan revision and garner input that will guide changes to the plan.

The Custer Gallatin Forest Plan is a comprehensive overarching document that guides forest management, use and protection. It’s intended to provide broad direction, standards and guidelines for the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The public is invited to attend a Tuesday, June 28 meeting from 4:30-7:30 p.m. at the Povah Community Center in West Yellowstone, and a Wednesday, June 29 meeting in Bozeman at Chief Joseph Middle School from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

The first webinar is scheduled for Thursday, June 23 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and there are two on Thursday, June 30—one from 12:30-3:30 p.m. and another from 4:30-7:30 p.m.

To connect by telephone, call (888) 855-9904 and use pass code 2320673# for access. The URL to connect online is Mobile device users can connect through the Adobe Connect app.

Famous bear cub killed by driver in national park


On June 20, the National Park Service released a statement indicating that unknown drivers on the evening of June 19 had struck and killed two bears in Grand Teton National Park.

One bruin was an adult female black bear. The other was a grizzly bear cub that had become something of an icon among the bear-watching community in the park.

Known as Snowy by local bear watchers, the cub was the only offspring born this year to a grizzly called 399, a 20-year-old sow that has been called the world’s most famous grizzly bear.

“These unfortunate incidents are an important reminder for all of us to slow down and be vigilant when we travel through the park,” said Grand Teton National Park Superintendent David Vela in the NPS statement. “Especially with the traffic levels that we are seeing during this busy season, it’s important to obey posted speed limits, maintain a safe following distance behind other vehicles, and be especially watchful around dawn and dusk when wildlife are more active.”

A total of 37 animals are known to have been struck by vehicles on park roadways in 2016, according to the statement. The collisions both occurred on U.S. Highway 89 in the park. Neither driver stopped or reported the incidents, the statement said.

Yellowstone visitor issued hefty fine for straying off boardwalk


A Chinese national was fined $1,000 and a $30 court processing fee for walking off the boardwalk in the Mammoth Hot Springs thermal area on June 14.

A visitor observed and reported that the individual walked on the terrace formations near Liberty Cap and collected thermal water. The visitor also reported seeing the individual break through the fragile travertine crust.

A park ranger took the witness’s statement, photos, and location of the violation.

The subsequent law enforcement investigation identified the individual who stated that he did not read the safety information given to him at the park entrance. He also admitted to collecting hot springs water.

A federal violation notice requiring a mandatory appearance in the Yellowstone Justice Center Court was issued for off-boardwalk travel in a thermal area.

Park employees call on all visitors to protect their park and protect themselves. Regulations to stay on designated trails and boardwalks in thermal areas exist for visitor safety and the safety of the exceptional park natural resources.

Without visitor cooperation, park natural wonders will continue to be damaged and more individuals may be injured or killed. It is a violation of federal regulations to collect any park resources.