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For the week of July 11 - July 17, 2001


Riverís end: 
Itís closer than you might think

"I think feeding the people is where the priority lies."

óDennis McLenna, Boise resident fishing in Big Wood River

Express Staff Writer

This summer, like many, the Big Wood River doesnít flow much past Bellevue.

Near Glendale Road south of the southernmost Wood River Valley town, the riverbed is dry, a cobbled sink awash in recumbent cottonwood trees whisked down by previous high waters.

A short walk upstream from Glendale Bridge, which spans the Big Wood boulder bed south of Bellevue, reveals an earthen dam 8 feet tall and 50 feet wide blocking the riverís natural instincts.

Irrigation ditches on either side of the riverís historic channel are brim full and flowing fast, leading to downstream farms and ranches.

There are four primary irrigation diversions on the Big Wood south of Bellevue, to spread the water on crops in the Bellevue Triangle and areas west. What remains when the crops are done is returned to the historic river channel via a return canal.

At Stanton Crossing, where Highway 20 crosses the river, the cobbled riverbed is once again covered with water.

"I wonder what itís doing to the fish?" ponders Boise resident Dennis McLenna as he casts a line in the feebly flowing waters near Stanton Crossing.

But he knows where the human raceís prerogatives are.

"I think feeding the people is where the priority lies," he says.

As far as irrigating any more of the Westís deserts, however, McLenna says more isnít better, and there wouldnít be enough water to go around anyway.

"Water use is pretty much maxed out," he says, with an upstream nod in the direction of Glendale Road and the Big Wood Riverís sun-baked riverbed.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.