By David Brooks, Andrew Gorder, Ellie Hudson-Heck and Derf Johnson, The Flathead Beacon
At the adage goes: everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just not their own facts. The fact is the recent opinion piece signed by the Lincoln County commissioners concerning the establishment of a scientifically justified selenium standard is long on opinion and painfully short on facts.
Ignoring the facts, the commissioners aim to weaken our water quality standards for Montana’s treasured Lake Koocanusa and the Kootenai River in order to satisfy a foreign mining company that is harming our water, fish, and communities.
The commissioners make the erroneous claim that the process to establish the standard was rushed over three months and excluded the public, including themselves. In reality, the commissioners have been involved, alongside many of us for the better part of a decade in public meetings, to achieve this standard. They participated throughout a robust, and transparent, rulemaking process, years of data collection, community discussions, and development of the protective standard.
The commissioners once again falsely state that the new selenium standard is more stringent than federal guidelines. Again, not true. Montana regulators applied the federal standard for acceptable levels of selenium in fish tissue and used peer-reviewed scientific models to determine a protective water threshold to protect Koocanusa’s fish. To be clear, the state standard is the federal standard. It relies upon six years of local data collection and is based on toxic levels of selenium in Koocanusa right now. The objective is to protect fish in Koocanusa. Given these facts, any call to weaken the standard is a move against protecting fish and communities in Montana and ignores our downstream neighbors in Idaho.