IDAHO - The streams and rivers that support
and protect IdahoÍs precious natural resources face a
new threat. It has recently come to my attention that
setbacks in state government have taken a serious toll
in the protection of our precious streams and rivers.
Last year the State of IdahoÍs
Stream Channel Protection Program was reduced from seven positions to only two
for the entire state. Even with four Specialists, one State Coordinator and four
time clerical positions, the workload was overwhelming. The two remaining employees
are spread way too thin. I have learned that funding for the two remaining positions
is tenuous at best.
In September, 2002, the Director of Idaho Department of Water Resources, Karl Dreher, was forced to make cuts in his agencyÍs budget. The majority of the cuts came out of the State Stream Channel Protection Program. These cuts were intended to be short-term solutions, but all agencies have recently been given the direction from Governor Kempthorne to hold their budget lines, and that more personnel cuts are expected.
The Stream Channel Protection Act was passed in 1971, and has virtually stopped the channel dozing, stream straightening, and other atrocities that were occurring prior to its passage. Since it became law, the use of car bodies, old tires, broken concrete, old appliances and other refuse as bank protection has stopped. The use of blanket riprap has given way to techniques using a combination of logs, rocks, willows, fiber rolls and wetland sod that provide bank protection as well as enhance fish and wildlife habitat and aesthetics.
The state program fills large gaps in Section 404 of the Clean Water Act Program, administered by the Army Corps of Engineers. Section 404 only covers fill material below the ordinary high water mark. Without the State Stream Protection Program, any stream, river or wetland in the state can be dredged without a permit. This can completely destroy fish and wildlife habitat. The federal program does not cover logging activities, dredging, or mining, and does not protect isolated waters such as Birch Creek, the Little Lost River or a host of other streams statewide. Without the state program, many streams can and will be destroyed.
I have worked on a professional level with Stream Protection Specialists of the Department of Water Resources for many years, and know them to be dedicated professionals that have worked hard to protect, restore and encourage the enhancement of Idaho streams and rivers. Idaho and IdahoÍs streams and rivers cannot afford the loss of this program. Healthy, stable streams and rivers provide an incalculable benefit, not only to fish and wildlife, but also to every part of Idaho life and economy.
What we can do:
On January 4, 2002, the LA Times ran a story written by Times Staff writer Elizabeth Shogren, entitled "Bush Makes Time for ïHook and BulletÍ Set. Fishing and Hunting groups have the administrationÍs ear and are emerging as a lobbying force for environmental issues."
This story is available in its entirety at: http://www.latimes.com/news/science/environment/la-na-sportsmen4jan04,1,5526137.story?coll=la-news-envionment
The heart of the story is that traditional environmental groups, opposed to the Bush administrationÍs environmental policy, are not being heard. Hunters and anglers, representing millions of Americans and a large republican vote, have rejected the confrontational
strategy of the environmental movement and have gained the PresidentÍs ear. President Bush has proven that he cares what sportsmen think. He listened and cancelled a rewrite to the Clean Water Act when they told him about the dependency of fish and wildlife on the millions of acres of wetlands and countless miles of streams that could be damaged by such a rewrite.
Let us now see if Governor Kempthorne and the elected members of the Idaho Legislature will take President BushÍs lead, and show that they care what Idaho sportsmen think.
Let no State be more cognizant of that the fact that "AmericanÍs rich hunting and fishing traditions are inextricably tied to the protection of habitat," than the State of Idaho. I call upon all sportsmen and those who value IdahoÍs streams to draft letters to their legislative representatives voicing their concern about the losses that are likely to happen.
If you have specific questions concerning this program, I recommend you contact
the Idaho Department of Water Resources directly. The Director is Karl Dreher.
Erv Ballou is the State Coordinator for the Stream Protection Program and
is of the work force. Karl Dreher and Erv Ballou are in the State Office
in Boise. Terry Blau is the other of the work force and is in the Twin Falls
The Legislature is in session, budgets are being set, and now is the time to make our voices heard. Contact the Governor at http://www2.state.id.us/gov/ourgov/contact.htm, and your legislative representatives at http://www2.state.id.us/legislat/comment.html, or send letters to (Your Representative by Name), Idaho State Legislature, State Capital Building, P.O. Box 83720, Boise, Idaho 83720-0081 (Senate) or 83720-0038 (House).
Dr. Bruce Lium, American Water Resources