As the Hailey City Council focuses on water rights in its review of the latest version of an annexation request and development plan for Quigley Canyon east of Hailey, previous concerns about impacts on wildlife have received little attention.
The council will continue to review in coming weeks a proposed 440-home development in the canyon. The proposal calls for annexing nearly 1,000 acres into the city, partially in exchange for an 1880 water right from developer Dave Hennessy that would shore up the city's municipal water rights.
But wildlife-impact concerns associated with developments at the eastern end of Quigley Canyon have not been addressed so far. In the city's review of a previous development plan for the canyon, it was determined that the area is a winter destination for herds of mule deer and elk, as well as being habitat for mountain lions, coyotes and wolves.
The Hailey Planning and Zoning Commission last year recommended approval of the Quigley Canyon annexation request with 52 conditions, calling for a prohibition on building in Deadman Gulch and upstream from Quigley Pond.
Hennessy's original plans called for 54 homes in the two areas, including eight "estate-sized" lots in Deadman Gulch. He recently offered to remove permanently from future development the area above Quigley Pond if his annexation request is granted, but the fate of adjacent Deadman Gulch would remain uncertain.
Tom Bergin, director of Blaine County Land Use and Building Services, said this week that county zoning restrictions allow for a maximum of 13 homes in Deadman Gulch.
Wildlife impacts in both areas had become a deal-breaker for the Hailey City Council two years ago, until Hennessy took the areas off the table and instead pursued development plans for them in the county.
Deadman Gulch is a craggy drainage with spring-fed wetlands and rocky cliffs extending for about a mile north of Quigley Pond. It has long been off limits to public access. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game recommended two years ago that Hennessy abandon plans to build in Deadman Gulch because it was a wintering range for deer and elk. Fish and Game biologist Mike McDonald said Deadman and the area above Quigley Pond together form a north-south migration corridor for those species. Jerome Hansen, Fish and Game regional habitat manager, told the council that at least 400 mule deer winter at the eastern end of Quigley.
"Deadman is really important," he said.
The City Council was ready to go to the mat two years ago to protect both of those environmentally sensitive areas, offering to consider annexation if they were removed from Hennessy's development plans. But rather than pursue the offer, Hennessy pulled back the proposed eastward boundary of his annexation to the boundary of the "area of city impact" zone between Hailey and Blaine County.
The area of city impact is a broad zone between the city and county. Proposed developments in this area are supposed to trigger conversations between the city and county. No such conversation ensued, though then County Planning Administrator Jeff Adams said it was an ideal time for the two entities to talk.
Hennessy's second plan, submitted to the county last year, included construction of 18 homes in Deadman Gulch and above Quigley Pond. If he succeeds in striking a deal with Hailey to annex, the area above Quigley Pond would remain as open space but Deadman Gulch would be put up for sale.
The fate of Deadman Gulch, and the animals that range there, would depend on the disposition of its new owner.
The council will continue its review of the revised annexation plan at future meetings.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org