The plans are made. Settlement dollars are aching to be spent.
After years of preparation, agencies will continue mining waste cleanup with nearly $40 million worth of work this year, officials announced on Monday.
That means more local jobs will be created for projects, too, officials said at a multi-agency meeting at the Environmental Protection Agency office in Coeur d'Alene.
"I think we're in a really good place," said Bill Adams, EPA project coordinator, at the meeting updating efforts to address the region's century-worth of mining pollution.
Adams said after addressing a flood of public complaints, the EPA produced a new ROD Amendment last summer, outlining continued cleanup in the Upper Coeur d'Alene River basin.
The agency also just wrapped up public review of an implementation plan, laying out the next 10 years of cleanup work.
"We only got about six letters of comment, as opposed to 6,000 for the (ROD draft), which I take as a good sign," Adams said.
Now it's time to put these plans to action, he said.
Agencies have about $38 million worth of cleanup work planned for this year, he added.
About $18 million of that will be conducted by the Coeur d'Alene Trust, which manages cleanup projects with Asarco settlement funds, Adams said. The rest of the balance will go toward EPA and Department of Environmental Quality projects, and will be funded by the recent Hecla settlement.
"It's more of a multi-faceted approach," Adams said of pursuing many projects at once.
Coeur d'Alene Trust dollars will go toward trucking heavy metals out of Nine Mile Canyon, said Dan Meyer, trust senior program manager.
Nine Mile is the second highest source of particulate material and lead from mining pollution, second to the 21-square-mile Bunker Hill Box.
"Our new estimate is 1.5 to 2 million cubic yards of material (will be removed)," Meyer said.
This year will see construction of infrastructure and a nearby waste consolidation area for removal and deposit the Nine-Mile material, he added.
"It will take roughly 10 years to finish Nine Mile (work)," Meyer estimated of total removal.
There are also plans to install a drain collecting contaminate water from the South Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River, Adams said.
At least 500 pounds of heavy metals a day will be captured from the South Fork, he said, and piped to a central treatment plant.
"(The project) represents 4 percent of the cost identified in the ROD Amendment, but it's a 40 percent reduction of the load in the Upper Basin," Adams said. "That one project will have a significant impact on water quality."
Contractors for cleanup projects are required to hire 80 percent of their crews from local workforce, Meyer noted.
"So regardless whether the contractors are from the area, the will have to hire from the local area," he said.
The EPA will hold another job training program soon to place locals into cleanup work, Adams added.
How many people are hired depends on demand from contractors, he added.
"We've heard from a number that they would absolutely be interested in hiring graduates from that program," Adams said.
Other projects will include repairing paved roads that cover contaminated soil.
Local road jurisdictions, including East Side Highway District in Kootenai County, will be allotted funds to do so, said Bruce Schuld, DEQ mine waste program.
The plan is to address such roads over the next 10 years, he added.
He added that property remediation will also continue, on about 150 private properties.
"We've got about 600 properties left we can get access to and remediate before really scaling back that program," Schuld said.
About 6,000 properties have been treated so far under the remediation program.
Dollars will also go toward protecting completed cleanup work, said Terry Harwood, Basin Commission executive director.
Protections must be in place to ensure contamination remedies aren't washed away by floods or seasonal runoff, Harwood said.
"If we ever had a 100-year flood in the Silver Valley, it would not only wipe out people's houses, but it would wipe out the remedy, too," Harwood said.
Tuesday's meeting also included the introduction of Rick Albright, new EPA Superfund program director.
Albright, who has been with the EPA nearly 30 years, said he hopes to focus on informing the public sooner of cleanup plans.
"'We're waiting too long to hear what's going on.' That's something we've heard,'" Albright said.
The EPA is already jumping on that goal, said Ed Moreen, EPA remedial project manager.
The agency will hold public meetings on March 20 about potential pilot projects in the Lower Basin, he said.
"This isn't something required by Superfund laws," Moreen said, adding that people will have 30 days afterward to submit their suggestions. "We're going over and above what we're required to do."