Add another entity to the list of those who weren't involved in crafting the plan to haul tens of thousands of tons of mine tailings across the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway next summer. The hauling is a controversial part of a roughly $24.4 million cleanup of an old gold mine near Cooke City, Mont.
A Sept. 8 editorial in the Cody Enterprise criticized Shoshone National Forest officials for being pushers of the hauling plan, but a forest spokeswoman said that was inaccurate.
“We weren’t asked about this. We weren’t consulted,” said Shoshone spokeswoman Susie Douglas when asked about the entity's involvement last week. She added that the Shoshone has no jurisdiction over who uses the state highway.
The mining district in question is located in Montana's Park County, and within the Gallatin and Custer national forests. The 46-mile Chief Joseph Highway (Wyoming Highway 296) runs from Cooke City to Highway 120 and is mostly within in the Shoshone National Forest.
When asked if Shoshone officials would have liked to have been involved in the planning process, Douglas said they likely would have.
“A lot of our forest visitors use that road and we kind of spotlight it — ‘Look at this scenic highway’,” she said.
County commissioners and local legislators have voiced concern with impacts of the slow-moving trucks on the Chief Joseph Highway and its traffic; they also are miffed that Wyoming officials were not involved in the planning process.
In an August letter to the commission, Montana Department of Environmental Quality director Richard Opper said his agency was working with the project contractor and the Wyoming Department of Transportation to mitigate the impacts.
Park County Commission Chairman Jill Shockley Siggins said last week she found Opper’s letter to be “patronizing.” Siggins said the letter made it sound as though the commission’s input wasn't going to make a difference.
Opper, who has said he should have sought more input from communities along the haul route, plans to meet with county and Cody officials next month to discuss the project. That meeting has tentatively been scheduled for Oct. 19.