Radioactive Waste, Bison and XL
News Of The Year In Courierland Gets A Recap / First Of Two Parts
• The winter storm that hit northeast Montana on Thursday night, Jan. 10, wasn't a surprise. It had been making its way across the state, heralded by the forecasters. But its intensity on Friday brought on the winter grumbles. The storm deserved the term blizzard, with heavy snow that was blown by winds up to 41 mph, causing white-out conditions and drifts reported up to 9 feet deep.
The low temperature of 1 degree above zero Friday night translated to about 29 below wind chill. A record 7 inches of snow was recorded by the Glasgow office of the National Weather Service, pushing the total snowfall in January to 9.3 inches, which was 5.8 inches more than normal for the date.
• The Glasgow High School Speech and Drama Team competed in the Eastern Divisional Speech and Drama Meet in Culbertson on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 25 and 26. The Scotties had two divisional champions, placed third in Drama, and qualified 12 for the State Forensic competition in Huntley Project on Jan. 25-26.
Eastern Division Impromptu Speaking Champion is junior Rachael Zeiger and sophomore Hailey Stone continued her winning streak by capturing the Eastern Division Serious Solo Championship. The top six competitors in each of the 15 events qualify for state competition.
Earning points toward the Drama trophy, in addition to Hailey, were: Pantomime – Bridger Sanders, second; and Morgan Miller, fourth; and Serious Duo – Kat Geer and Amanda Kersal, third.
• The Scotties traveled to Wolf Point on Saturday, Feb. 2, for the Eastern B/C Divisional and five Scotties left with their tickets punched to go to the state tournament.
Mick Reyling, at 105, Jake Shawver, 119, Cody King, 125, Jake Hentges, 125, and Ben Kountz, 140, all were able to place in the top four in Wolf Point and advance to the Metra in Billings.
Reyling, one of only three wrestlers at 105 in the Eastern Division, was guaranteed a spot in state if he made weight. He did. The only thing up for grabs was what seed he would be placed coming out of divisionals.
• A chapter has closed in the struggle to replace Glasgow's crumbling swimming pool, but a longtime advocate for a new pool does not think the project is dead.
At a regular meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19,the Glasgow City Council accepted a resolution signed by all eight members of the Glasgow Aquatic Center Advisory Board that dissolves the board.
"It is with some sadness that I ask you to consider Section 3 of this resolution and accept these resignations," board member David Irving said. "It's been a long road. I thank you for your support. For some reason I think it's not quite over."
• Montana U.S. senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester are joining North Dakota Senator John Hoeven in a bipartisan group of senators pressing newly confirmed Secretary of State John Kerry to approve the Keystone XL pipeline within the first quarter of the year.
The action, announced Tuesday, Feb. 26, comes during a period when the controversial project has received an important green light in Nebraska, where the governor signed on with his approval for a pipeline route that was changed to avoid that's state's environmentally sensitive Sandhills.
In the same period of time, however, thousands of Keystone XL Pipeline protesters have vocally opposed the project in the United States and Canada on environmental grounds – leaving President Obama and his administration in a position where the final yes or no decision on the pipeline remains sure to anger masses of people.
• Hinsdale Lady Raiders secured the Eastern C divisional title as they knocked off Westby/Grenora 58-44 at Wolf Point. Whitney Molina had 18 points and 11 rebounds while Bethany Lacock and and Hannah Jones added 14 and 11 points respectively.
• A week after taking second in the MAHA State Tournament, the U19 Ice Dawgs finished second again in the NDAHA State Tournament A2 bracket.
With 13 teams in the NDAHA league, the tournament was broken into two brackets, A1 and A2. Glasgow could have been in either one depending on the outcome of their first game of the tournament, on Friday at 9 a.m. against the Fargo Freeze – the winner entered the A1 bracket, the loser entered the A2 bracket.
• The Valley County Conservation District is considering an ordinance that would require a permit for grazing any bison, whether wild, free-roaming or domestic, in the county. They are acting in response to Fish, Wildlife and Park's placing of bison from Yellowstone National Park on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation a year ago, an action that sparked a reaction from ranchers and farmers in the area.
Local producers said they feared the spread of brucellosis and they said that bison are hard to contain in fences. The big animals destroy fields and haystacks when they get loose. Owners are liable for domestic bison, but there is no recourse for damage by wild bison. A group of ranchers and organizations filed a lawsuit to prevent any further translocation of wild Yellowstone bison without having a comprehensive statewide bison management plan in place. The Valley County Commissioners joined this lawsuit.
The Valley County Conservation District's board of directors have a draft proposed ordinance based on an ordinance that was passed by voters in McCone County in the November general election.
The draft ordinance sets several requirements to obtain a bison permit. The applicant must have a conservation plan, management practices to protect land and water resources from erosion and degradation. The application would require a description of the land where bison grazing is proposed, the number of acres, the maximum number of animal units and the bull/cow ratio, the location of all watering facilities and a watering management plan. In addition, it would require a health and disease testing plan and certification that the bison are free of brucellosis and other diseases. And it requires stating the location and type of fence proposed to keep the bison from leaving the grazing land.
No land could be grazed by bison if it was not suitable, sustainable habitat with an adequate water supply, or if the grazing would result in "sediment damage to lands, drainages, waterways, reservoirs and other water storage facilities."
• Families from northeastern Montana and around the state ignored winter weather warnings and homed in on the Billings airport Saturday, March 16, to welcome their National Guard soldiers returning from duty in Afghanistan. The 484th MP Co. left Montana last April, spent two months in pre-deployment training at Fort Bliss, Texas, then flew to several duty stations in Afghanistan. They supported the training mission to the Afghanistan National Police for Operation Enduring Freedom.
• In a high-turnout election last Thursday, March 14, Glasgow School District voters passed a $16.8 million levy to build a new K-5 Irle School and make substantial improvements at East Side and Glasgow High School. The vote was 1,151 to 945.
The vote was roughly reversed in the defeat of the second levy requested, $2 million to remodel the entrance of the administration building to ADA standards, upgrade the GHS auditorium seating, improve the high school playing fields and pave the parking lot. The levy went down, 857 in favor to 1,225 against.
The election had a 68 percent voter response, about twice the election result for the previous two years. It was the first time a mail-in ballot was used in a school election here.
• An unknown person tipped the information to Great Falls Tribune reporter David Murray, who wrote a front page piece on March 1 about a proposal to store radioactive oilfield waste at the landfill near Glasgow. Stuff hit the proverbial fan in Glasgow.
Vice president of sales and marketing Phillip Hanamaikai of Dyad Environmental of Idaho then met with local officials and reporters on March 5 to explain the company's proprietary process for sealing up TENORM (technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive material) in dense concrete blocks. He explained the minimal radioactivity emitted, less than from a fluorescent light ballast.
A public meeting was scheduled for March 19. At this meeting held at the Cottonwood last night, more than 50 people showed up, surely the largest Refuse Board meeting attendance in history. It illustrated how hard it is to convince people there is such a thing as a small, safe amount of radiation.
Hanamaikai and Daniel McNair, president of Dyad Environmental and the inventor of the method of Convergyx ceramic technology, described an oil and gas industry creating up to 75 tons of waste a day in North Dakota. Byproducts of deep drilling contain radioactive isotopes of radium-226, radium-228 and lead-210, concentrated from what occurs naturally in the ground, as well as oil and salts. These materials are regulated differently by each state. Currently, North Dakota's landfills are not accepting the waste.
• U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, R-Mont., on Tuesday, March 19, commended Glasgow's Abbi Helland for being selected Miss Teen Montana International, and he did it big – on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.
"Abbi is a true example of the spirit and drive that we value in Montana," Daines said. "She'll represent our state well as our ambassador to the Miss Teen International competition in Chicago this July."
This is happening really quickly. Abbi, 17, a GHS junior, applied just two weeks ago to be a contestant after seeing a pageant flyer at school, and she didn't tell anyone until after she sent it in. A pageant director soon interviewed her over the phone, which led to her being asked if she wanted to be Miss Teen Montana International.
• It was hot in the packed room at the special school board meeting Tuesday night, March 26, but it was even hotter for Paul Bishop under the scorching criticism of the Glasgow School Board and members of the public. The speakers were incensed that Bishop, hired as the school board's owner's representative to monitor the $16.8 million building and remodeling project, had not told them that his architect's license was suspended in 2011 for three violations of professional conduct.
They were also startled that he sent out a discussion agenda headed up with a plan for Irle School: "demolish and reconstruct in same location" and "need temporary school facility for 2013-2014 school year." This was directly contrary to what the school board and Building Committee had been planning, to build next to the old school to avoid having the staff and students move twice.
• Since the disclosure March 1 of Dyad Environmental, LLC's proposal to store radioactive Bakken oil field waste at the Valley County Landfill, area residents have been curious about the company, its history and its principal officers. Investigation on the Internet turned up the conviction in 1993 of the man introduced in Glasgow as Dr. Dan McNair, the president of Dyad and the inventor of the proprietary process that is said to seal the radioactivity into 3-ton concrete cubes.
The Deseret News published an article on Nov. 4, 1993, stating that Daniel McNair was one of five men who pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges that they schemed to defraud Westinghouse Electric Corp. and the government in the sale of waste remediation kits. According to the article, McNair admitted to one count of money laundering.
• The Valley County Landfill Board has decided to close off any further conversation with Dyad Environmental, LLC about accepting oilfield waste. The vote at the regular board meeting Tuesday night, April 16, was 6-1.
The motion by board member Ron Watson also said no action would be taken by the Landfill Board at this time to change the existing storage permit.
The meeting in the District Courtroom of the courthouse was attended by about 35 people, who clapped when the vote was taken. The 11 people who spoke during the public comment period at the beginning of the meeting were against Dyad's proposal to bring 3-ton concrete blocks of TENORM (technologically enhanced, naturally occurring radioactive material) from the Bakken to the county landfill.
The reasons varied from the danger of leakage to fear of radioactivity to distrust of the company. The county might be liable for environmental damage in the future.
• The Keystone XL oil pipeline doesn't have its presidential permit yet, but a lot of preparation work has been done so construction can jump into action when it comes. NorVal Electric Cooperative is preparing to supply power to two pump stations that would be built in Valley County to help push crude oil from the Alberta tar sands some 1,700 miles to refineries on the Gulf coast of Texas.
TransCanada, Keystone's parent company, is spending more than $9 billion on the pipeline, including pump stations and the power going to them, according to NorVal's general manager, Craig Herbert. The last good numbers he saw indicated about $2.4 million will be spent in the NorVal area.
Piles of new utility poles to carry bigger capacity transmission lines are already laid out alongside roads in Valley County. The normal 69 kilovolt (kV) line will be replaced with 115 kV line to a substation north and west of Glasgow and to one south of Fort Peck Dam.
• A pillar of Glasgow High School and Glasgow athletics, Bob Farrell died this week due to blood disease. Farrell started as a teacher and coach in Culbertson in late '60s before moving to Glasgow in 1972, where he immediately had an impact on the school and its sports.
Farrell was named "Track Coach of the Year" twice, once in 1977 and once more in 1986.
Farrell became the Activities Director in 1976, serving for 27 years. He also was the vice-principal for five years and principal for 10, overlapping multiple positions at once for some time.
LaBonty noted that the Top Ten Meet scheduled for April 30 will be the first ever without Farrell, who created it alongside Mark Yoakam.
• The Cottonwood was packed Tuesday, May 7, for the first day of the 45th annual Governor's Conference on Aging. It marked the first time Glasgow has hosted this conference and the first visit by Gov. Steve Bullock since his election.
The theme "Aging in the Last Best Place" reflects the fact that Montana has one of the fastest growing 65 and older populations in the nation, with an average of 35 baby boomers turning 65 every day until 2030.
And surprisingly, within this age group, the fastest growing segment is the 100 and older age group, the centenarians. Montana has more than 175 people over 100. Eight of these hardy Montanans were honored personally by the governor with certificates and the reading of a bit of their life stories.
Bullock said 1913 was a pretty good vintage, producing the celebrity centenarians at this luncheon, as well as Rosa Parks, Presidents Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, and coaches Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi.
• It's a story right out of an old Western movie. A stolen horse, a chase, a shootout and a death. The story fairly leaps off the crisp, folded pages of the coroner's inquest, stored for nearly 100 years in a narrow metal box in the depths of the District Court vault.
But the story would not have come to light again if Clem Lemieux hadn't torn down a storage shed on May 5. The shed was attached to a garage on his property on Division Street on the south side of U.S. 2. When he removed a corner post, he discovered the cornerstone it was standing on was actually a gravestone. It was cast concrete, about 2 feet by 18 inches, with a name and a date, "J.H. Waterous 1882-1917," and in the lower left corner, the number 541.
• City employees discovered a mess at the Glasgow city pool last week. The Recreation Department secretary called police at about 6 a.m. on Tuesday, May 21, saying an employee just told her the pool had been "destroyed."
• If you were in it, like Glasgow was Saturday evening, May 25, the hail storm was bad. But only some areas were hit while most others escaped.
Glasgow was subjected to a heavy downpour that turned into pea-size and larger hail after 7 p.m. It was a record rain for the date, 1.53 inches, and it didn't take long to create flash flooding. Although not as bad as the storm of 2007, tender plants were destroyed and some tree leaves were stripped and washed into storm drains, causing jams. The underpass was closed and there was 8 to 10 inches of standing water on U.S. 2. A foot of water was reported near East Side School and in the Reynolds Market parking lot.
• The Milk River at Glasgow jumped ahead of predictions and rose to 25.6 feet late Tuesday night. June 4. Flood stage is 25 feet, so there is minor flooding in low-lying areas. The latest forecast from the National Weather Service office in Glasgow (1:30 a.m. on Wednesday) is that the river will hold near 26 feet from Wednesday through Friday, and be at 27.5 feet early on Sunday.
The situation changed quickly from the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday, when the river was at 23.15 feet and a height of 27 feet was predicted by 6 a.m. on Sunday.
The NWS has issued flood warnings for swollen streams and creeks across central and northeast Montana.
• A Glasgow police officer has been awarded the Montana Medal of Valor for his actions that saved the life of a law enforcement dispatcher who was trapped in a burning truck.
The medal was presented to Tyler Edwards by Montana Attorney General Tim Fox at the annual meeting of the Montana Association of Chiefs of Police (MACOP) in Billings on May 16.
The Courier's big winners in the MNA's annual Better Newspaper Contest were Nashua correspondent Sandy Laumeyer for Best Column Writing and sports editor J. Levi Burnfin for Best Sports Column.
The Courier's second place winners included editor Samar Fay for Best Long Feature Story, Virgil Vaupel for Best Column Writing, and office manager Terry Trang, publisher Jim Orr and production manager Stan Sonsteng for Best Multi-Sponsor Ad.
• A Canadian oil exploration company has withdrawn the offer it made to lease minerals on land belonging to Valley County, citing the difficulty of conducting business under restrictions intended to protect the habitat of the threatened sage grouse.
In an email to the Valley County Commissioners, Don Lee, an attorney for Montex Oil Co., said, "Unfortunately because of the sage grouse habitat issues involving federal lands, it will be extremely difficult to conduct exploratory operations with regard to the Valley County mineral interest."
• In a unanimous decision last week, the Montana Supreme Court overturned a District Court ruling that prevented the movement of Yellowstone bison from the Fort Peck Reservation. This clears the way for about half of the bison to be taken to the Fort Belknap Reservation, which was the original plan when 61 bison were brought north last spring after five years' quarantine and testing for brucellosis.
In his opinion, Chief Justice Mike McGrath clarified one of the chief objections behind the lawsuit that sought to restrict the placement of the bison. He stated that having been "reduced to captivity," these bison were no longer wild animals.
For ranchers, this is an important distinction. Someone is responsible for a domestic animal if it strays where it doesn't belong and causes damages to fences, crops or haystacks. The memorandum of understanding between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has provisions for the kind of fencing the tribes were required to provide for the bison and the prompt response necessary if they escaped. What the ranchers fear is a wild, free-roaming herd of bison that no one is allowed to remove from private or leased federal land.
Next week: "It Happened in 2013" concludes with news from July through December.