DOE reports good year at tailings pile
But cottonwoods are failing to thrive due to lack of water

It was a good year at the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project (UMTRA), said Department of Energy (DOE) representatives at an Oct. 24 meeting of the Moab Tailings Project Steering Committee. The project completed their yearly goals two weeks ahead of schedule and was able to ship 467,000 tons of tailings material to the permanent disposal site near Crescent Junction, surpassing their goal of 450,000 tons.

DOE oversees the Moab UMTRA project, which involves relocating more than 16 million tons of Cold War-era uranium mill tailings and other contaminated waste to the Crescent Junction disposal site.

The project is still in the hiring process to replace four of the five Department of Energy employees that left earlier in the year, Shenton said. John Sattler, from the DOE Environmental Management Consolidated Business Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, will continue as the acting director at the Moab UMTRA project.

Acting UMTRA Federal Project Director Ellen Mattlin said that the funding for the project moving forward remains uncertain.

“No budget has been passed yet for FY18 and we’re in continuing resolution until Dec. 9,” Mattlin said. “Our budget for the year is $35.3 million. That’s the president’s budget and that’s what we expect to get. It would be nice to have the plus up again but right now in the continuing resolution that will be the president’s request.”

The steering committee continues to hope for a funding increase, however, which could allow the project to be completed by 2025, as originally anticipated. Right now, the project is on track to be completed in the 2030s.

The committee also discussed the fate of the row of cottonwoods that currently screens the site from U.S. Route 191. Cottonwoods have failed to thrive, possibly due to a lack of water according to the DOE’s subject matter expert Kara Dohrenwend.

“They really should be bigger and little more robust than they are for that age tree,” Dohrenwend said.

The committee agreed to keep watering the trees, but to replace them with more drought-tolerant native vegetation

“Kara Dohrenwend is well-respected in the community and a respected expert on native vegetation in the area so her comments carried a lot of weight with the stakeholders and what I heard, bottom line is probably a third of those cottonwoods won’t survive even with the watering,” said Shenton.

as they died.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent