[Federal Register Volume 69, Number 116 (Thursday, June 17, 2004)]
[Pages 33934-33935]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 04-13672]

[[Page 33934]]



Bureau of Indian Affairs

Notice of Availability, Midnite Uranium Mine Natural Resource 
Damage Assessment Plan, Part I: Injury Determination

AGENCY: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION: Notice.


SUMMARY: The Department of the Interior (represented by the Bureau of 
Indian Affairs, the Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park 
Service), the Spokane Tribe of Indians, and the Confederated Tribes of 
the Colville Reservation (the Trustees) announce the release for public 
review of the Midnite Uranium Mine Natural Resource Damage Assessment 
Plan, Part I: Injury Determination. This Assessment Plan was developed 
by the Midnite Uranium Mine Natural Resource Trustee Council, 
consisting of representatives of the Trustee agencies listed above. The 
purpose of the Plan is to communicate the Trustees' proposed approach 
for determining injury to natural resources resulting from the release 
of hazardous substances from the Midnite Mine Superfund Site, an 
associated uranium mill site, haul road and other areas to potentially 
responsible parties (PRPs) and the public so that these stakeholders 
can productively participate in the assessment process. All interested 
parties are invited to submit comments on the Assessment Plan.

DATES: Comments on the Assessment Plan are due on or before July 19, 

ADDRESSES: Written comments should be sent to the Lead Administrative 
Trustee: Spokane Tribe of Indians, Department of Natural Resources, c/o 
Dr. F.E. Kirschner, P. O. Box 312, Valleyford, WA 99036 (Telephone 
(509) 924-0184, Facsimile (509) 924-4515, E-mail: [email protected]). 
The Assessment Plan is available for review at the Spokane Indian 
Reservation, Department of Natural Resources Reading Room, Wellpinit, 
WA 99040. The Assessment Plan is available for public inspection during 
normal business hours by appointment.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Dr. F. E. Kirschner, (509) 924-0184.



    This Assessment Plan addresses the Trustees' approach for 
determining injury to natural resources resulting from the release of 
hazardous substances from the Midnite Mine Superfund Site (Mine), 
including its associated uranium mill (Mill), haul road, and other 
areas where hazardous substances have come to be located (the facility 
or Assessment Area). The Mine is an inactive, open-pit uranium mine 
situated entirely within the boundaries of the Spokane Indian 
Reservation in eastern Washington. The Mine's impacted areas include 
two large water-filled mining pits, several mining pits now backfilled 
with mine waste and waste rock, a retention pond, a leachate collection 
pool, outfall ponds and seeps, at least eight abandoned uranium ore and 
protore piles, large mining spoils disposal areas, a mine water 
treatment plant, a system of weirs, ditches, and sumps for seepage 
collection, and various buildings housing pump equipment and storage 
tanks for collected seep water. The uranium Mill is located near the 
town of Ford, Washington, northwest of the City of Spokane. The Mill is 
comprised of a number of buildings, 14 acres of storage pads where 
uranium ore was stockpiled prior to milling, and a tailings disposal 
area. The haul road, a public road used for hauling uranium ore from 
the Mine to the Mill, runs for approximately 20 miles through the 
communities of Wellpinit and Ford.
    The Dawn Mining Company and/or Newmont Mining Company (the 
Companies) operated the Mine from 1955 to 1981. The Mill was operated 
by the Companies from 1956 until 1982, then from 1992 to 2000 limited 
operations resumed for the processing of water treatment plant sludge 
from the Mine. Uranium ore was transported over the haul road 
throughout the period of Mine operation. More recently it has been used 
to haul water treatment plant sludge.
    Beginning in the 1950s and continuing today, hazardous substances, 
including radiological and non-radiological contaminants, have been 
released into groundwater, surface water, and air in the Assessment 
Area. As a result, natural resources of the Blue Creek, Sand Creek, 
Chamokane Creek watersheds, portions of the Spokane River, the Spokane 
Arm of Lake Roosevelt, and other areas have been exposed to elevated 
levels of hazardous substances.
    In 2000 the U.S. EPA listed the Mine site on the Superfund National 
Priorities List. A Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study is being 
developed, and response actions at the Mine include development of a 
control system for the management of drainage water. Cleanup of the 
Mill is under the authority of the Washington State Department of 
Health. A Groundwater Remedial Action Plan was put in place at the Mill 
in 1992; the effectiveness of this plan is being evaluated under a 
Corrective Action Assessment Plan. Removal actions to address 
contamination along the haul road are currently under consideration. 
Despite these past actions, releases of hazardous substances from the 
Assessment Area continue, and trust natural resources continue to be 
exposed to elevated levels of hazardous substances.
    The Trustees have completed a Preassessment Screen, which concluded 
that there is a reasonable likelihood that natural resources have been 
injured and that the Trustees should conduct an assessment to develop a 
damage claim under 42 U.S.C. 9607. The Trustees' goal for the 
assessment is to fully restore the ecological and human use services 
lost or diminished as a result of injuries caused by the release of 
hazardous substances from the facility. This phase of the assessment is 
the first step in this assessment process. It provides a description of 
the Assessment Area, confirms exposure of trust resources to hazardous 
substances, and describes the Trustees' approach to injury 
determination for surface water, groundwater, air, geological, and 
biological resources.

Public Comment Availability

    Comments, including names and addresses of respondents, will be 
available for public review at the mailing address shown in the 
ADDRESSES section, during regular business hours. Individual 
respondents who prefer confidentiality and wish to have their name and/
or address withheld from public review or from disclosure under the 
Freedom of Information Act, must state this prominently at the 
beginning of their written comment. Such requests will be honored to 
the extent allowed by law. We will not, however, consider anonymous 
comments. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from 
individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of 
organizations or businesses will be made available for public 
inspection in their entirety.


    The authority for this action is the Comprehensive Environmental 
Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980, as amended (42 U.S.C 
9601 et seq.), and published under the authority delegated by the 
Secretary of the Interior to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs 
in the Departmental Manual at 209 DM 8.

[[Page 33935]]

    Dated: May 27, 2004.
David W. Anderson,
Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs.
[FR Doc. 04-13672 Filed 6-16-04; 8:45 am]