Why is our Department of Environmental Quality suddenly cutting corners when it comes to the Smith River?
An Australian-owned company is proposing a large copper mine in the headwaters of the Smith. The DEQ just released the draft environmental assessment of that mine for public comment. Over a year ago, when the DEQ asked the public to comment on what ought to be in the environmental assessment, the department held four, well-organized and well-attended hearings.
Along with hundreds of people, I attended the one in Helena. Now we’re at the more important step of evaluating what impacts this mine could have on the Smith, yet the DEQ has cut the number of hearings in half (by NOT holding one in Helena or Great Falls). The environmental assessment we’re supposed to review and comment on is long and technical.
DEQ should provide more time for this public comment, as well as more in-person opportunities for people to have their say. We deserve that. So does the river. As someone who has worked extremely hard and enjoyed a great career in outfitting, including 40 years of guiding the Smith River, I know it is worth taking extra time to protect it.