Moore mud claims still on slippery road

Great Falls Tribune

by John S. Adams

HELENA — Federal Highway Administration officials will review and evaluate residents’ claims of property damage caused by calcium chloride on missile defense access roads in central Montana.

However, that doesn’t mean residents should expect to receive compensation for damages they believe were caused by the potentially corrosive mud that plagued miles of county roads for several weeks this summer.

According to FHWA spokeswoman Nancy Singer, the agency is actively taking steps to mitigate any harm that may have resulted from the project.

“FHWA will process any claims filed by people who believe that they have been harmed by the work being done on this project,” Singer said. “Any claim that is filed will be carefully reviewed and handled in accordance with applicable federal law.”

Air Force officials announced last week that crews would begin adding clean aggregate to muddy access roads near Moore in an effort to mitigate the effects of recent reconstruction efforts. Residents who live along some of those roads claim excessive application of calcium chloride, which is used to stabilize new rebuilt gravel roadways, created a sloppy, corrosive mess. Many residents complained that the mud from the road was eating away at paint on their vehicles and causing metal to rust prematurely on vehicles and farm equipment.

Staffers for Sen. Jon Tester met with Air Force officials from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls last week.

According to Moore resident Jerry Simpson, a Tester staffer told him after the meeting the Air Force would work to compensate property owners for damages that may have occurred because of the messy roads.

“She said the Federal Highway Administration was going to set something up and the Air Force attorneys at Malmstrom would start to assist us,” Simpson said.

Tester spokesman Aaron Murphy said a FHWA official told Tester’s staff that the agency would begin evaluating claims, but that no promises of compensation were ever made. Earlier this month Tester sent a letter to top Air Force and FHWA officials requesting more information about whether the agencies intended to compensate property owners for damages.

“We don’t speak for Federal Highways, but Jon wants to make sure the process is moving forward,” Murphy said. “That’s why he’s asking whether there are plans to reimburse counties and private landowners for any costs associated with mitigating the impact of calcium chloride. He has not yet received a specific response to his letter.”

Simpson said it will be difficult to put a dollar amount on the damages that he has incurred. He said in addition to rusty equipment, grass died in the tracks of trucks that drove on the affected roads. Those same trucks drove in farm fields all around the Moore area.

“We’re all wondering how many of these tracks we’re going to see out in our fields next year,” Simpson said. “We just don’t know what effect this stuff is going to have on us.”

Murphy said people who believe they may have suffered property damage from the calcium chloride may contact the Federal Highway Administration’s Western Federal Lands Highway Division at (360) 619-7700, or they can fill out a form that can be found online at http://www.justice. gov/civil/docs_forms/SF-95.pdf.