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For the week of July 25 - July 31, 2001


Stream restoration planned adjacent to Silver Creek

Express Staff Writer

Rancher and entrepreneur Tom O’Gara says he’s giving his 4,000-acre Silver Springs Ranch near the world renowned Silver Creek a facelift of which Mother Nature would approve.

He plans to restore 3,000 feet of Wilson Creek and Chaney Creek on his ranch this summer by dredging to create a series of riffles and pools and by restructuring banks. Both streams lead into Silver Creek and have been heavily damaged by a century of cattle hooves, he said.

The Blaine County Commission is scheduled Aug. 6 to review O’Gara’s application to perform the work. The public hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the old Blaine County Courthouse.

O’Gara said the $100,000 stream work is part of an overall plan to return the ranch land to its natural condition. He said he and Guy Bonnivier, former executive director of The Nature Conservancy of Idaho, have been referring to photographs of the ranch from the 1930s in planning the restoration.

The project includes planting 100,000 new trees and bushes, restoring several other streams and building new fences to keep cattle away from sensitive areas, O’Gara said.

Bonnivier said he has been helping master plan the project for O’Gara’s team of about six people, including at least two biologists.

The project is important, Bonnivier said, because the ranch has vast water rights, and extensive wetlands that were drained decades ago would be restored.

Required permits for the work have already been acquired from the Army Corp. of Engineers, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the Department of Environmental Quality, he said.

While no conservation easement exists for the property, O’Gara said his goal is to preserve the rural nature of the ranch, not prepare it for development.

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