Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Silver Creek plan bad for public


While favoring private users, one of the largest land owners in the area and The Nature Conservancy are trying to change one of Sun Valley’s crown jewels, Silver Creek. The area below the Kilpatrick Bridge and above the dam is a favorite of locals and fishermen from around the world. But the Picabo Livestock Co. and The Nature Conservancy seek to radically change the pond and Silver Creek’s flow. Unfortunately, these efforts will only hinder public access to public water and hurt the fishery while favoring private, paying fisherman associated with Picabo Livestock Co.

The proposal will dredge silt from the pond, both below and above the bridge. While silt removal is a good and necessary idea, the devil is in the details. Silt should not be removed to a depth more than 4 feet, the stream should not be narrowed and no islands should be created as proposed. Excessive depth and narrowing will cause the following problems:

  • It will greatly increase the rate of flow, making it impossible for the public to fish this water (you cannot stop in midstream if it is flowing fast).
  • The deeper water and faster flow will make it nearly impossible for the public to access the pond and return to the bridge upstream. The Picabo Livestock Co.’s suggestion that you should use pingpong paddles and fins to motor upstream is absurd.
  • Creating three acres of new islands reduces rod capacity and takes away from floatable and existing fishable, public water.

Access should be maintained and not made so difficult that only the strongest and most able can enjoy it. Access, egress and ability to remain in the streambed should be reasonably available for all, just as it is now. Whether these planned restrictions for the public are intentional or not, I do not know. However, this rancher’s paying clients will not face the same challenges. Unlike the public, they can simply drive to the lower pond. The Picabo Livestock Co.’s plan will take the public’s ability to fish the lower pond and make it a private fishery because the public must access from and return upstream to Kilpatrick Bridge.

It is sometimes challenging to balance public and private interests, but we can find solutions when we use common sense and work toward the middle. Removing silt is important and should be done because it benefits the creek, but this must be balanced with the public’s right to fish. The easiest answer is to simply dredge less. Think redecorate, not remodel. Take out enough silt to improve water temperature and improve habitat while maintaining access so people can fish the lower pond and can get back to the bridge by either wading in shallow water near shore or with a narrow footpath on land.

Reed Schifferman lives in Seattle.

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