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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 9 - 15, 2002


Hailey to begin 
Big Wood River 
restoration project

Express Staff Writer

After suffering nearly a century of degradation, a stretch of the Big Wood River along Hailey will be put back to something closer to its natural condition with four days of restoration work later this month.

Undertaken by the city of Hailey and the Wood River Land Trust, the project is designed to be just the first step in creating a riparian greenbelt from Hailey to Bellevue.

The two bodies obtained a stream alteration permit from the Blaine County Commissioners on Monday to work on 1,300 feet of the river downstream from the Bullion Street Bridge, adjacent to Lionís Park. Beginning Oct. 21, they plan to remove 1,000 cubic yards of old fill, stabilize the west bank, plant native bushes and install mid-river rocks to improve fish habitat.

The Big Woodís natural course through Hailey was historically a meandering one. Then, in the early 1900s, a dike was built along the east bank to protect riverside property from flooding. Until the 1970s, the cityís street department used Lionís Park as a dumping area, creating a steep bank there. Those actions channeled the river, causing it to increase erosion and create sedimentation.

"Whatís been happening over the years is that the riverís been digging deeper and incising the river bed," Wood River Land Trust Stewardship Coordinator Stef Frenzl told the commissioners.

Work on the project began in July when the city removed about 4,000 cubic feet of material from the west bank above the high water mark. That lessened the pitch of the slope, which will allow for the planting of willows and other bushes, aspens, grass and wildflowers.

A major part of the $25,000 project will be to place flat rocks, from two to four feet in diameter, across the river in four locations. Though they will be under the surface, the rocks are expected to slow water speed and to act as natural riffles and pools, which will provide resting places for insects and fish. The Big Wood contains rainbow trout, a rainbow sub-species called red band trout and Wood River sculpin. The red band and sculpin are listed as sensitive species by the U.S. Forest Service, which means that they are being monitored.

In addition, root wads will be anchored along the banks to act as fish habitat and to further slow the river.

The project is part of a two-stage plan. The second part will involve construction of a recreation area at the decommissioned Riverside Wastewater Treatment Plant at the south end of Heagle Park. The existing infrastructure will be removed, wetland vegetation will be restored to enhance wildlife habitat and a sediment-catch pond will be constructed.

Both projects are funded by a $395,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, distributed by the Idaho Division of Environmental Quality.

Frenzl said the ultimate "vision" is a trail system along the river from Hailey to Bellevue. Bringing that plan to fruition will require restoration of the publicly owned land along the river, which comprises most of the distance, and purchase of title or easements of small parcels of private land.



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