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Using oil spill settlement, Montana FWP to buy Yellowstone River islands near Reed Point

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Posted at 9:06 AM, Mar 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-21 11:06:59-04

BILLINGS — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will move forward with a deal to purchase two Yellowstone River islands east of Reed Point to make up for wildlife habitat lost during the clean up of a 2011 Exxon Mobil pipeline rupture near Laurel, according to a Wednesday media release from the wildlife department.

The two islands, dubbed Cottonwood Island, cover a 45-acre area and are currently owned by the Montana Department of Transportation. The transportation department acquired the islands when it bought out a ranch as part of a plan to demolish a bridge across the Yellowstone River.

The islands will provide float-in opportunities for river recreation and camping on the islands. The islands will also fill a need for woody debris and wildlife habitat that was lost during the clean up of the 2011 Exxon Mobil oil spill.

Woody debris along the Yellowstone River is responsible for creating islands that form a healthy, meandering river, according to the wildlife department release.

About 10 years ago, an Exxon Mobil pipeline buried under the Yellowstone River near Laurel broke open and dumped 63,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River. In all, nearly 11,000 acres of property and 85 river miles were included in the cleanup.

To purchase the land, the wildlife department will use $54,050 from the Montana's Natural Resource Damage Program. The damage program was created in 1990 to recover damages for natural resourced damaged by the release of hazardous substances into the environment, according to the state's web site.

In 2018, the state reached a settlement with Exxon Mobil worth $12 million over the oil spill. $2.3 million was allocated to advance recreational facilities along the Yellowstone River.

To learn more about Cottonwood Island, view the acquisition plan on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks web site by clicking here.

RELATED: Seven years after oil spill, Montana officials announce plan to boost recreation on Yellowstone River in Laurel, Billings