Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Little Wood alterations undone

Flood Control District mitigates excavation error

Express Staff Writer

The problem of an allegedly illegal berm and excavation in the Little Wood River that raised concerns over possible violations of county, federal and state laws last month has been solved.

Blaine County Code Compliance Specialist Megan Stelma said that the county, along with the Idaho Department of Water Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has been working with Idaho Flood Control District No. 2 to ensure that excavation along three miles of river that occurred without a permit has been cleaned up.

"We're very happy with how it turned out," Stelma said. "When we went on site, it was impressive what they did, and how fast they reacted."

According to Stelma and state Stream Channel Coordinator Aaron Golart, a 300-foot-long berm that rose roughly 10 feet above the channel's base has been completely removed. The berm was the item of most concern for the state and the county, as it blocked stream flow into a side channel intended to keep the Little Wood from overflowing its banks.

"Construction of a levy to block off high-flow channels is something that is generally not permitted," Golart said last month.

Stelma said the berm had been constructed using fill excavated from the stream channel itself. The district ordered the berm to be deconstructed, returning the fill to the channel and regrading the streambed.

The regrading eliminates Stelma's concern about erosion of the stream if the Little Wood Reservoir is drained, which could have swept loose fill down the channel. Stelma said the reservoir had not been drained yet this year, and the mitigation was completed in time.

However, the district will still need to apply for a stream alteration permit, Stelma said. She said she expects to receive an application within two weeks.

"We've seen this before," she said of granting retroactive approval for stream alterations. "It really is to make sure that how they have mitigated the problem is in compliance with all of the standards in Blaine County code."

Golart said the district won't face fines or further orders from the state, which has determined that the matter has been resolved.

Stelma said she is waiting for official letters from the Corps of Engineers and the Idaho Department of Water Resources before beginning the permitting process. However, she added, she does not foresee a problem with approval of the mitigation.

"We're happy [the district] followed through," she said. "They stepped it up and said, 'OK, we're going to get it done.'"

Katherine Wutz:

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