- Zach Hagadone
A February 2015 power outage at Boise's Barber Dam shut down the facility’s outlet gates and cut off water flow to the Boise River. Because the incident happened in the dead of night and triggered no alarms, the gates didn't reopen and power wasn't restored until the following morning and, more than a year later, Boise River wildlife may still be recovering. To help that effort along, the Ada County Environmental Advisory Board began work this week on an engineering effort to rehabilitate fish habitat in key areas.
“Some areas [of the river] were completely de-watered, and we still don’t know the total impact of that,” said Joe Kozfkay, regional fisheries manager for the Southwest region of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “This project is a direct response to that event.”
IDFG is a member of the ACEAB, which was formed after the Feb. 2015 Barber Dam crisis. Other members include Ada County, the Boise River Enhancement Network and The Freshwater Trust. Ada County and Fulcrum/Enel Green Power North America, the power company that operates Barber Dam, have jointly funded the $45,000 project, which will improve habitat for trout and other fish species by placing engineered log structures and boulder clusters in the river.
“Over time, the Boise River has gradually been restricted due to development and flood control in the valley. As that has occurred, fish habitat has been simplified,” said Kozfkay, “What we’re creating [with this project] is complex habitat, places where the fish can escape from bird predation, where they can hide from larger fish, and where they can rest out of the current.”
Construction is expected to continue through mid-December, during which time access to the river and nearby trails between the Barber Park Boat Ramp and the Eckert bridge will be closed. After construction is complete, volunteers will replant the riverbanks with native willow species. Anyone interested in volunteering can contact Michael Young, the regional volunteer coordinator for IDFG, at 208-327-7095 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kozfkay said he sees the project as a positive sign people and organizations will step-up to take care of their community and environment rather than pursue individual goals.
“We hope to use this project to gain momentum so that we can do more habitat work in the Boise River,” said Kozfkay.