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Klepfer: Mine unaffected by the water-rights issues

| April 26, 2012 12:02 PM

Lincoln County Commissioners on Wednesday got what they called some good news from Eric Klepfer, the Montanore Minerals contractor for environmental concerns.

Klepfer, who was accompanied by Jessica Conrad, the office manager at Montanore Minerals Libby office, told commissioners the recent concerns about water-rights on Libby Creek as a result of claims by the Salish and Kootenai tribes will not be a concern for the planned copper and silver mine that is seeking federal approval.

 “The Compact, it does not look like it will affect the project,” Klepfer told Commissioners Marianne Roose, Tony Berget and Ron Downey. “The issue for us is going through the water-rights projects. We feel like the water levels are way above our (consumption) levels,” Klepfer said.

Klepfer and Conrad came to the conclusion after meeting with members of the Compact recently.

  Klepfer explained water on the upper reaches of Libby Creek vary immensely throughout the year, and the Montanore operation may be forced to store water to accommodate its needs, but he does not expect that to be a problem.

  Klepfer said water flows must be maintained at 40 CFS (cubic feet per second), and at times of the year, it drops below that naturally. However, at other points of the year, water flow is well over 130 CFS.

   “We’ll just have to look at the details, but we don’t anticipate this being a problem for us,” he said.

   In February, Commissioner Berget received an 11th-hour advisory from an informant within the Department of Natural Resources of a meeting that could grant water rights of local streams to the Salish and Kootenai tribes.

The meeting of the Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission was Feb. 29 at the KwaTaqNuk Resort, and Berget attended.

 In addition to Libby Creek near the mine, the tribes seek to influence the flow of the Kootenai River, Libby Creek, above Swamp Creek; Libby Creek between Swamp and Big Cherry Creeks; Libby Creek below Cherry Creek; Midas Creek; Swamp Creek; Bear Creek; Big Cherry Creek above Cherry Creek; Granite Creek; Pipe Creek; Quartz Creek; O’Brien Creek; Keeler Creek and Grave Creek.

   Downey said not only are commissioners monitoring action on the Compact, but others are, too.

  “I think a lot of legislators are watching this, too,” Downey said.

   The premise for the Tribes’ water-rights claim is what they say are the impact of Libby Dam, changing stream flow.

  “Because the operation of Libby Dam has so dramatically altered natural flow conditions, ...” the document states as a reason.