An oil pipeline under the Yellowstone River just upstream from Laurel, Mont., ruptured Saturday. The pipeline's operators reacted quickly and shut down the flow but not before at least 10,000 barrels, 42,000 gallons, of crude oil spilled into the river. The pipeline runs from Silver Tip, Mont., to a refinery in Billings, Mont..
The Yellowstone is slowly receding from severe flooding conditions in the late spring. Just upstream from the break, the Edgar MT river gauge shows the water down a foot from this year's high, at 8.25 feet. Downstream from the break, at Billings, the river gauge is showing the Yellowstone at just above 12 feet, but under the flood level of 13.
It was above flood level Saturday when the pipeline ruptured. At the Miles City river gauge, 163 miles downstream from the break, the river is still above flood stage. The National Weather Service predicts continued flood crests along the river, and the flood warning for Billings continues.
The flooding and near flooding conditions mean that the river is spreading the oil from the pipeline leak over much more land than normal. Some Laurel residents were evacuated as a precaution for part of Saturday.
Exxon has 120 people working on the oil spill at this time, with an additional 80 to arrive some time Monday. Personnel from International Bird Rescue are also expected to arrive. They will be working with the local Audubon societies on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation.
The company believes the major portion of the spill is within 10 miles of the break. The Missoulian reports that authorities have found oil over 40 miles downstream.
The Yellowstone River flows for 676 miles from the world famous Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming through Montana to the Missouri River just inside North Dakota. It is said to be the longest river in the United States that has not been dammed. The river is noted for its fishing. In the area affected by the oil spill, the river plays a vital role in agricultural irrigation.
Development along the Yellowstone River between Laurel and Billings has resulted in flood control structures being placed along the banks in many places. As with other mature rivers, the main channel winds and moves -- flooding affects that course. Rip rap and other measures to strengthen the river banks have been necessary to control the changes in the river's course.
- Yellowstone River
- Missouri River
- flood control structures
- crude oil