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Coeur d'Alene Tribe, Idaho

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Workers turning a contaminated railroad track into a recreational trail are finally working with U.S. District Court approval of the consent decree between Union Pacific Railroad, the state and federal governments, and the tribe. The late August decision was a milestone in the years-long effort to clean up mining-related toxic metal, then turn the trail over to the state and the tribe to manage. Earlier approval of the project by the federal Surface Transportation Board was appealed by Citizens Against Rails to Trails, a property owners' group. The Mullan-to-Plummer trail will be nearly 72 miles long. Rails have been removed from Mullan to an area east of Osburn, said project manager Mike Cooper. The rails and other steel parts are being salvaged for scrap. Wooden ties that cannot be salvaged for industrial use will go to a disposal facility, Cooper said. Rock and soil contaminated with lead and other metals will be buried at the Bunker Hill Superfund site near Kellogg. Cooper hopes the trail will be paved at least from Mullan to Wallace by late fall. The project is expected to take two full construction seasons to complete.