For the week of November 11 thru November 17, 1998  

Hailey ponders creating wetlands restoration bank

Express Staff Writer

Riparian revitalization of five acres of land at the site of Hailey’s Riverside Treatment Plant may soon be the mutual goal of developers and city officials.

At the Nov. 9 meeting of the Hailey City Council, a motion was passed to explore implementation of a wetlands bank program as part of the disposition of land used by the Riverside Waste Treatment Plant.

The Riverside plant is slated for decommissioning when the city’s new facility in Woodside begins operation in late 1999.

The council entertained three other options for the old sewage plant, but the wetlands bank proposal drew the most support from council members and the public in attendance.

Hailey Mayor Brad Siemer listed other options.

One plan was to sell the land to a developer and use the money to pay down the city’s sewer bond debt, incurred to build the new plant. The bond was created with voter approval in May 1997. Payment of sewer bills by residents currently pays the bond debt.

The city could also elect to keep the land and turn it into a park, built and maintained by the city.

The third idea was to return the land to its original riparian state under city ownership.

If the city uses the land as a park or returns it to its riparian origins, income versus expenses would not make fiscal sense, said Siemer.

A wetlands bank program could solve that problem, working in a similar fashion to the formula used for a transfer of development rights program, Siemer said.

The site would be designated as a "receiving area" for wetland restoration by developers who needed to mitigate damage to wetlands on another "sending area."

"Eventual expansion into sensitive wetland areas is inevitable," said planning consultant John Gaeddert, who was present at the meeting. "A wetlands bank program makes a lot of sense in these cases."

Gaeddert cited developments that have been built over wetland areas, including Della View and Sherwood Forest.

Developers might also be compelled to repair more acreage in "receiving areas" than they damaged in development areas, thus increasing the amount of restored riparian areas.

The recovered area of the Riverside Treatment Plant would act as a natural floodplain and could still be used as a park, said Siemer.

The idea of a wetlands bank makes fiscal sense, according to Siemer, and has fewer encumbrances associated with it.

Developers would pay to preserve and maintain the area with no cost to the city.

"Perhaps for once we can satisfy most everyone with this type of plan," said Siemer.


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