More at Risk than Drinking Water

By Beacon Staff

I am writing to emphasize my grave concern about the entire Flower Creek Drainage, a concern that should prompt every citizen to prevail upon decision-makers to stop talking and take action.

As hot summer winds fan an already dry forest, we daily face the threat of catastrophic fire. For many years there have been discussions about the forest condition in the Flower Creek Drainage, which is the city of Libby’s sole source of fire protection water and drinking water.

Efforts have been made to prepare thinning plans and get harvesting underway, but to this date no thinning has been done. The watershed is a high-risk area for high-intensity wildfire because of too many trees. Many communities in the Western United States have experienced high-intensity wildfire in their watersheds. Damage done by wildfire in a watershed is catastrophic and mitigation efforts after a wildfire are nearly impossible to accomplish and when done are expensive and of very little use or help.

In addition to the forest health condition in the watershed there is the failing condition of the reservoir dam and more delays in getting the work underway to replace the dam. The people of Libby should be aware that they are being subjected to an immeasurable danger of interruption or destruction of their water supply while nothing is being done about either problem. Since the city of Libby has no other developed source of water it is especially critical to stop talking about the problems and start fixing them while they can still be fixed.

Of course, we have all heard the talk about why there are delays in taking action. The grizzly bear habitat requires a study and the bull trout must be assured protection, even in Flower Creek. The trees may have asbestos dust on the bark so that has to be studied too. How could even these issues be of higher value than the citizens who are totally dependent on one source of water?

None of these studies will protect or replace what currently exists today, even with all of its imperfections. Residents of the town rely solely on the Libby water system because the groundwater in our area is so polluted that water wells are not safe even far away from the identified contamination areas. And there is no backup treatment or distribution system that could rely on the Kootenai River or other mountain streams.

One has to ask how this ever got so messed up with barely a word of concern or warning to the people most affected. Would not now be a good time for every one of us to contact every single elected official that we have employed to work for us and protect our way of life and our security? Meetings and talk are not getting the job done. These threats are not something that should be politically correct dominos in the great games that are being played with our health and safety.

These threats are directly against our homes and businesses and many other values, which are why we live here.

Gary Callihan lives in Libby.

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