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For the week of April 24 - 30, 2002

  News

Sawtooth officials propose new floating permits


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

The Sawtooth National Forest is proposing to change regulations associated with commercial float boating on the upper Salmon River near Stanley.

Changes could result from reissuing permits for commercial outfitting and guiding. An environmental assessment, recently completed by the Forest Service, establishes six alternatives, including a preferred permitting method.

Sawtooth National Recreation Area Deputy Ranger Lisa Stoeffler said the basic difference in the preferred alternative, versus how activities have been previously managed, is the stretch of river that will be used to determine when measures must be implemented to mitigate for the protection of spawning salmon.

"In the past, we have used the stretch of the Salmon River from the state fish hatchery to Holman Creek for monitoring spawning activities," Stoeffler said. "We are now proposing to reduce that stretch of river from Redfish Lake Creek to Holman Creek.

"What this will do is segment out the early and late spawning activities that may not truly indicate the need to implement floatboating mitigation measures. The bottom line here is that we think this will mean implementing mitigation measures up to four days later, thus providing for more floatboating opportunities unhindered by portaging requirements further down river at sites like Indian Riffles, for example."

Sockeye and chinook salmon were listed as endangered species in 1992 and 1993 under the Endangered Species Act, and, following the listing, the Forest Service conducted an environmental impact statement that resulted in Salmon River corridor regulations to protect the fish.

Requirements mandated by the environmental document include floating time windows, boat limits, mandatory portages and a penalty point system for violations.

Prior to 1996, commercial permits were issued on an annual basis but are now issued every five years.

Permits must adhere to the original environmental document.

"We propose to issue up to six permits for floatboat outfitters and up to four permits for guided walk-and-wade fishing," Stoeffler said. "The permits would be issued for the next five-year period."

Private floatboating will continue to be governed by requirements similar to the rules for commercial outfitters and guides, Stoeffler said.

"Although the floating system implemented on the river over the past six years has worked in protecting chinook salmon, and at the same time provided boating opportunities, the results of the six years of monitoring and input from the public indicates that there is more fine tuning needed," Stoeffler said. "This is why the proposed action is slightly different than the current management and why the alternatives analyzed cover such a wide range of options."

The options range from no change to removing all mitigating measures.

People interested in reviewing this document and providing comments to the Forest Service may obtain a copy of the assessment by contacting the Sawtooth National Recreation Area office at the Stanley Ranger Station at 208-774-3000.

The assessment is also available online at www.fs.fed.us/r4/sawtooth

The deadline for comments is May 20.

 


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.