Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wood River Wave project moving forward

Plan is to create surfing wave and swimming hole in Bellevue

A group of citizens in Bellevue hopes to redevelop an old dam and rebuild it into a safe play area with a surfing wave. Photo by Roland Lane

Express Staff Writer

    Organizers of the Wood River Wave project will hold a silent auction with live music on Friday, Oct. 4, to raise money for their proposed renovation of a low-head dam on the Big Wood River in Bellevue. The project would result in a surfable wave on the river.
    Project founder Craig Wolfrom, along with a few other concerned citizens, identified numerous injury and drowning hazards caused by the existence of the old dam and headgate adjacent to the Howard Preserve. Taking inspiration from other high-water wave projects such as the Riverdale wave in Ogden, Utah, the group created a plan for a park that would include an improved swimming hole as well as enhanced fish habitat.
    “We have the most water in the Big Wood by the time it runs through Bellevue,” Wolfrom said. “Our hope is that we can create a wave that would be fun to surf anywhere from three to five months of the year.”
    He said swimming and fishing opportunities would see improvement during low summer flows.
    The project is still in the first phase of planning, with founders seeking to raise money to hire an engineering firm to further explore cost and construction needs. A bid and design plan would then be submitted for approval from the city of Bellevue, Friends of the Howard Preserve, the Wood River Irrigation District and surrounding landowners.
    Having put in the legwork by contacting various government agencies, the group has found that the project is already gaining support from local citizens and officials, Wolfrom said. If accepted, the plan would continue to move forward in seeking the necessary funds to tear down the old dam and headgate and rebuild the area into a safer play environment.
    Wolfrom said the group hopes to preserve the natural surroundings of the area while mitigating bank erosion and installing additional signs and natural fencing. He said the ultimate goal would be to provide free recreation to the community, revitalize the downtown Bellevue area, increase the fish population in the river and provide educational opportunities for surrounding schools.
    “We have a really great location that is right now a nasty spot on the river,” he said. “It has great potential to be a community asset and could be so much more.”
    The group began raising money in August with an event that unexpectedly suffered from the Beaver Creek Fire. Wolfrom said the benefit still raised a healthy sum, but more help is needed. The Oct. 4 party will be held at the Power House restaurant in Hailey beginning at 7 p.m.

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