June 08, 2011
By Jeff Simpson
Spill missed Blue-Ribbon trout fishery, but still has impact on Montana.
Trout Unlimited today released a statement on the impacts of an ExxonMobil oil spill into the renowned Yellowstone River near Billings. The statement holds the energy company accountable for the accident and promises full-scale monitoring of cleanup efforts until the river and all who depend on it are out of danger.
"This accident demonstrates the very real need for diligence when it comes to how we develop and transport oil and gas in the West," said Kendall Van Dyk, Montana energy field coordinator for TU, and a Montana state senator. "We believe that energy companies should drill for and transport domestic fossil fuels in the West, but we can't let our guard down. Incidents like this one, where oil was spilled into one of the nation's most treasured rivers, are simply not acceptable."
The accident along the Yellowstone, which dumped the equivalent of 1,000 barrels of oil into the river, highlights a need to revamp pipeline crossings in Montana to ensure such a disaster never happens again. While the Yellowstone's fabled trout water runs farther upstream of the spill site, the area impacted is important transitional habitat between a coldwater trout fishery and a vibrant warm-water fishery. Native fish, like goldeye, sauger and channel catfish call this reach of Yellowstone River home, as do non-native but highly prized fish, like smallmouth bass and walleye. So far, there's no information available as to the impact of the oil spill on these fish or the economically significant recreational fishery in the area.
One concern, however, is very real. Farther downstream in the Yellowstone lives one of the country's rarest native fish, the pallid sturgeon. Thanks to high water flows, there's no telling how the spill will impact this endangered, prehistoric fish.
"We can only wait and see," said Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited. "We know that we're seeing oil as far as 40 miles downstream in flooded wheat fields near Pompey's Pillar, an important landmark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. That's approaching the stretch of the river home to sturgeon."
TU and Montana TU will continue to monitor the effects of the spill and the cleanup efforts put in place by ExxonMobil.