Friday, May 31, 2013

Broken Wing Ranch land exchange process continues

A potential land exchange between Thompson Creek Mining Company (TCMC) and the BLM reached another milestone this spring with official publication of a "Notice of Exchange Proposal."

The 775-acre Broken Wing Ranch alongside The Salmon River between Deadman Hole and The East Fork comprises the bulk of the 900-acre land exchange proposal.  TCMC began discussions with the BLM regarding a potential land exchange proposal in May 2006, related to a proposed modified mining plan of operations (MMPO).

TCMC proposed in February 2009 to exchange approximately 5,000 acres of public land for approximately 900 acres of private land controlled by TCMC in the Challis and Pocatello areas that possesses resource qualities considered to be of substantial value to the public. Acquisition of the private land would also consolidate blocks of public land in both the Challis and Pocatello localities.

The Thompson Creek Mine Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) evaluates two proposals submitted by the Thompson Creek Mining Company:  a mine expansion and a land exchange.  The public was notified of the proposal in 2010 by a Notice of Intent published in the Federal Register and various local newspapers.  The BLM received public comments on the proposed mine expansion and the land exchange.  The BLM regulations, 43CFR 2201.2, require a Notice of Exchange Proposal (NOEP) be published in local newspapers with a 45 day comment period.  The NOEP was published on April 18, 2013, with the comment period ending on June 2, 2013.  The next step in the process will be to review the comments received and address the comments in the DEIS.

The BLM anticipates the DEIS will be released in August 2013.  The final EIS and the records of decision from the BLM, Forest Service and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be released approximately 1 year later.  For tracking the release of the DEIS:  https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/planAndProjectSite.do?methodName=dispatchToPatternPage&currentPageId=45866.

Kenneth S. Gardner is the Project Lead for the BLM's Challis Field Office. "The final EIS will discuss various options for future management of the Broken Wing Ranch," a BLM spokesperson said.  "If the BLM acquires the ranch, in the future, there will be site specific planning efforts for the future management of the ranch," they added.

Here is a link to the full "Notice of Exchange Proposal" as it was published in "The Challis Messenger" this month: https://www.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/nepa/8000/42895/45781/TCM_NOEP_signed_20130417_508.pdf

(Editor's Note: We asked Gardner for some graphics to help readers better understand the location and extent of the Broken Wing Ranch property parcels.  He provided the JPG below and a Google Earth file that we used to create additional graphics.  We have also assembled additional links and illustrations to help readers learn about and track the land exchange proposal. Captions are below each graphic.  You may click on any graphic or illustration to see a larger version.)

Above is the graphic showing the various property parcels as described in metes and bounds 
by the NOEP legal notice.
Above is how the Broken Wing Ranch is located in perspective with other area landmarks.  
The yellow lines denote the various property parcels comprising the 775-acre Broken Wing Ranch.
Above is another view of the Broken Wing Ranch looking in a westerly perspective.
Here is the complete JPG graphic sent by Gardner, including Scale & a Legend.
Click on this graphic for a much larger, more readable version.



Above is a 5-minute BLM video describing the Broken Wing Ranch and the land exchange proposal.
If the video above will not load, here is the direct YouTube link: http://youtu.be/grA9BZ8tfgc


The BLM video above describes the Thompson Creek Mining operation.
If the video won't load, here is the direct link: http://youtu.be/MB0hGRpUDDw

The Thompson Creek molybdenum mine, owned and operated by the Thompson Creek Mining Company (TCMC), is 20 miles southwest of Challis, Idaho. The mine is the fourth largest primary molybdenum mine in the world, producing approximately 5 percent (up to 15 percent in the past) of the world molybdenum supply. TCMC is the largest employer in Custer County, with approximately 375 employees. Typically, the mine accounts for one out of every five jobs in Custer County, 45 percent of wages and salaries in Custer County, and $114 million of Idaho's total personal income. Most of the molybdenum produced from the mine is used as an alloy to make high-strength and corrosion-resistant steel.

The mine has been in operation since 1981 and is permitted for approximately 3,400 acres of surface disturbance, of which approximately 2,300 acres are on private land and approximately 1,100 acres are on BLM administered and National Forest System lands

Here is the link to the BLM's webpage on the land exchange proposal:
http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/nepa_register/TCM-exlx_EIS.html

And, finally, here's a screen shot of the project's NEPA #, description, etc.:
Click on the graphic for a larger, somewhat more readable version.
The original is located on the webpage linked above.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

East Fork Bridge Project Postponed

The much-anticipated East Fork Bridge Project may not get underway during the 2013 construction season.

The lowest bid by Knife River of $7.1-million was $1.4-million higher than the ITD Engineer's cost estimate of $5.7-million.  ITD plans to rebid the project possibly as early as sometime in June.

ITD District 6 Public Information Specialist Bruce King said, "The East Fork bridge project will probably not be taking place this season."

The bid deadline was May 14.  King said there were 5 bidders.  Other bids ranged upwards of $8-million.  King did not know when the rebid deadline would be or when the bids would be analyzed after the deadline.  He also did not know if the specifications would be changed for the new bidding process.

The East Fork bridge project will construct two new bridges adjacent to and on the south side of the existing Highway 75 bridges over the East Fork and The Salmon River.

If a followup call, King said it's possible the project could start late in the construction season, depending on when any bid might be awarded.

There has been much local concern and discussion about how the East Fork bridge project would impact boating traffic on The Salmon River.  Also, concerns have been raised about the project's possible impact on the public access site immediately down river from the Salmon River Bridge.

The Challis Messenger's "Central Idaho Guide"

Click image for larger version.
Since 2010, "The Challis Messenger" has released a "Central Idaho Guide" the week before Memorial Day. The annual tabloid publication always contains a reader's buffet of interesting, entertaining, educational information. This year's fourth annual "Central Idaho Guide" is the best yet, serving up an eclectic selection of topics including Dr. Falma Moye's article "How Rivers Work"; a detailed look at Nick Bertram's brewery; and a riveting read entitled "Snow Prison" by David Kimpton.  Even the ads are interesting and informational in the "Central Idaho Guide."

"The Challis Messenger" Editor Anna Means said, "This issue, like all editions we crank out every week, is a snapshot in time of our lives in this unique and beautiful spot."

"Too often, the health of a community is measured by money.  That is a narrow gauge and ignores what makes life worthwhile.  People and how they live together is what enriches us from the wealthiest to the poorest realms, " Ms. Means explained, "We hope these pages give you an idea of why we feel enriched in our neck of the woods."

The 2013 "Central Idaho Guide" was included with the May 23rd edition of "The Challis Messenger."  It is available free throughout the summer at various Salmon River Country businesses and Chambers of Commerce.
Here's how Editor Anna Means describes the "Central Idaho Guide."

Bugs, Editor Anna Means and Reporter Todd Adams take a break on Challis Main Street.  Anna says, "Bugs is a stray that showed up at the office one July evening and adopted me."  Anna has been at "The Challis Messenger since 1991 and served as Editor since 2008.  Todd began writing as a relief reporter 17 years ago and has been full-time since 2005.

"The Challis Messenger" is available by paid mail or online subscription.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Chinook Salmon Run Status

Time once again for another look at the Spring Chinook Salmon Run numbers at Lower Granite Dam. The run numbers so far appear to be well below the 10-year-average. Meanwhile, as best as we can determine, only nine Sawtooth Hatchery PIT-tagged fish have been detected passing Lower Granite Dam. Here are some data tables so you can see the numbers for yourself. (Short notes appear with each graphic.)

Above is the most recent available graphic showing chinook passage at Lower Granite Dam.
Below is the first of two gaphics showing the daily run numbers at Lower Granite since May 1.
The first column is the actual daily run of Adult Chinook for a date.
The second column is the ten year average for Adult Chinook on that date.
The third column is the actual daily run of Jack Salmon for a date.
The fourth column is the 10 year average for Jack Salmon on that date.
As you can see from the data above, the Chinook run so far is lagging the 10 year average for by 30%.
For perspective, the total annual numbers logged past Lower Granite Dam since 1975 are below.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Kid's Fishing Ponds

Fishing Season is underway once again.  If you're looking for two great places to take your kids or Grand kids fishing, the Kid's Fishing Ponds at the Sawtooth Hatchery and Squaw Creek are perfect.

Both ponds were stocked prior to the Memorial Day Holiday and will continue to be stocked throughout the summer.  Tours of the Sawtooth Fish Hatchery began May 25 and will continue each day at 1:30 pm until Labor Day weekend.

Regular trout stocking of The Upper Salmon River and Sawtooth lakes is expected to begin in early June.  A special Kid's Free Fishing Day event will be held June 8 at the Sawtooth Hatchery Kid's Fishing Pond.  In addition to free poles and bait, prizes and snacks will be available for all participants.  For more information, contact Hatchery Staff at 208-774-3684.
The Sawtooth Hatchery Kid's Fishing Pond is a truly delightful, fully-accessible spot.
IDFG has gone all out to make the Hatchery Kid's Fishing Pond a fun place.
Fishing tackle is always available.
IDFG even provides worms.
The red "X" marks the spot.
The Hatchery is located at "A" and Stanley is at "B".
The Hatchery Kid's Fishing Pond is right in the middle of the IDFG facility ("X").
Here's a panorama view of The Squaw Creek Kid's Fishing Pond.  It's in a more rural setting but the adjacent Thompson Creek Mine access road can be very busy at times.  It's a short walk from the road to the pond.
The Squaw Creek Kid's Fishing Pond is easy to find, if you know where to look.  On this graphic, it's marked by the red "X."  Take the Thompson Creek Mine bridge. ("A")  Do not take the May Family ranch bridge. The Squaw Creek public access area to The Salmon River is right of the "B."  Old Sawmill Station is at "C" and "D" marks the Ice Corner bridge.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Top Ten Topics Ahead

Greetings, Dear Readers!  Thank You for your support for this website. Most folks consider Memorial Day weekend as the "official" beginning of the Summer Season.   As summer begins, it's a good time to talk about  the Top Ten Topics coming up on this website in the weeks ahead.

First and foremost--Chinook Salmon.  As of May 22, the chinook run across Lower Granite continues to decline from an apparent May 18th peak.  Run numbers are now 25+ percent below the 10-year average.  Will there be a chinook salmon fishing season on The Salmon River?  That's the #1 question of most folk's minds.  We will try to provide as much coverage of that question as possible.  Likewise, if a season is declared we will cover it in better detail than we did last summer.

Second--Trout Stocking.  The kiddie ponds at the Sawtooth Hatchery and Squaw Creek have been stocked.  However, full scale trout stocking of The Upper Salmon River and Sawtooth lakes won't begin until early June.  IDFG plans to hire a public affairs staff person for the Sawtooth Hatchery.  We'll have a lot more information on the trout as soon as that person comes on board.

Third--Riverfest.  This year's Riverfest promises to be the best yet.  We're going to be there for all three days and we'll have lots of coverage of all aspects of this headliner event beginning with the Dugout Dick Dedication Friday and ending with the Sunday Play Day through Pine Creek Rapid to Panther Creek.

Fourth--Access and River Info.  This summer we plan to organize a better presentation of all the various public access areas and begin to provide a detailed description of what to expect when paddling various stretches of the river.

Fifth--Water  and Weather.  River flows and climate are two staples of this website so you can expect regular doses of both.

Sixth--Fire Season.  Experts say The Salmon River watershed is expected to see above normal fire danger in July and August.  We will keep you posted on how the build up to the annual fire season evolves as well as frequently-updated coverage of any fires that may burn in the area.

Seventh--Federal Projects.  The Yankee Fork Rehabilitation Project is high on our list of story topics for the upcoming summer.  Likewise, things are moving along on the proposed Thompson Creek Mining/BLM land exchange involving the 775-acre Broken Wing Ranch alongside the Salmon River at Lyon Creek.  Undoubtedly, there will be other federal projects and proposals to write about this summer.

Eighth--Events and Organizations.  Each summer provides a veritable cornucopia of community events from Stanley to North Fork.  We hope to do a better describing and covering them.  Likewise, we're planning to put the spotlight on numerous non-profit and community organizations that play a role in The Salmon River's history and culture.

Ninth--People.  If our schedule permits, we'd sure like to feature various Salmon River People this summer.  Not long ago, Idaho's famous Salmon River was defined as much by the hermits and colorful eccentrics who lived in cabins, caves and other strange places along the winding river's shore. Today, The Salmon River's cultural present and future are being defined and shaped by a new generation of women and men who are bringing fresh Heart & Soul to this timeless place. Who are these people?  Where are they from?  Why did they come to The Salmon River?  What makes them tick?  Why are they notable?

Tenth--Business.  A kaleidoscope of businesses from Stanley to North Fork help make The Salmon River a fun and family-friendly place to visit.  This summer, we're going to write about many of these businesses.

Recently, we summarized our first year in operation and listed other goals and objectives as well.  You may wish to revisit that article.  Many of the Top Ten above overlap with items we discussed earlier this month.

http://www.salmonriveridaho.net/2013/05/first-year-in-review.html

It's going to be a great season. Let The Summer Fun begin.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Many Cheers, John Parsons, Editor.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Narrows Project Phase 1 ends

The $1.4-million Narrows Rock Scaling Project Phase 1 near Milepost 206 on Idaho Highway 75 began April 1 and will be finished this week.  Actual scaling activities ended last week.  Project contractor DEBCO continues work this week hauling off debris and securing the site.  The twice daily two-hour closures also ended in time for Memorial Day weekend. Some photos and a video of Phase 1 are below.

Phase 2 of The Narrows project begins on or about June 1 and will continue until August 2015. Contractor for this $9.9-million project will be Knife River Corporation, NW, Boise.  Phase 2 involves netting the steep rock cliff face through The Narrows, as well as building barriers to keep errant rocks from the roadway.

Until September 15th during Phase 2, drivers can expect 15-minute delays during weekday working hours.  Automated traffic lights will manage a alternating five-minute cycle for motorists at other times.

"The Challis Messenger" plans to print a correction in the May 23rd issue regarding a report last week that the two-hour delays would continue in Phase 2.  Both the newspaper Editor and a spokesman for the US Department of Transportation have confirmed that the regular twice-daily, two-hour delays will not be a part of Phase 2 during the busy summer season.  However, the two-hour delays will return September 15th.

The two-hour delays ended last week. Fifteen minute delays began May 16 and will continue through September 15. Two-hour delays are allowed 10:00 am - 12:00 noon and 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm Monday through Friday, September 15 through May 15.

Below is a 1:42 video of a drive through The Narrow Rock Scaling Project recorded on May 8th.  Photos of the project shown below were also taken that day.


 If the embedded video doesn't show up--here is the link: http://youtu.be/BO92fg_RkTg

We were lucky on May 8th to be stopped at the head of the waiting line.
If you look closely into the river canyon, you can see the Warm Creek confluence.
 Ten human rock scalers accomplished the bulk for the hazard removal activities.
 Phase1 contractor DEBCO also utilized some mechanical scaling equipment.
 We were very happy to be delayed and at the front of the line!
Watching human rock scalers in action is a rare and dramatic sight.
Material removed from The Narrows cliff face was trucked to an area downriver near Holman Creek.
The material will be use in various other highway projects including possible river bank stabilization projects.

Friday, May 17, 2013

The PITs

PIT tags are a hot topic as chinook salmon begin to swim from the sea to spawn.

PIT tag data essentially holds the key to determining when and where there might be a chinook salmon fishing season on one or more sections of The Upper Salmon River.

Fisheries biologists closely watch daily data of PIT-tagged fish passing Bonneville and the various other dams on The Columbia and Snake Rivers.  Of keen interest to IDFG Staff at this time are the numbers of PIT-tagged fish from the Sawtooth and Pahsimeroi Hatcheries.

If sufficient numbers of these PIT-tagged fish are recorded passing through the dams, Staff may possibly recommend a chinook salmon fishing season of some duration on one or more sections of The Upper Salmon River.  As of the May 16th IDFG Commission meeting Staff asked that more data be collected before making any recommendation.  At this time it is too early to predict whether enough fish are returning to make a recommendation.

As of mid-May, very few Sawtooth and Pasimeroi PIT-tagged fished have been recorded at Bonneville Dam and almost none at Lower Granite Dam.  Our sources indicate this is not a cause for concern at this time.  PIT tag numbers in the next couple of weeks will be a key factor in the variables that go into whether a recommendation might be made to open a chinook fishing season.

We put together a short PIT tag primer using online slides from the Columbia Basin PIT Tag Information System (PTAGIS)

Click here for the short introduction to the components of a PIT tag.

Click here to visit the PTAGIS Learning page: http://www.ptagis.org/learn

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sockeye smolts released


Hundreds of sockeye salmon smolts were released May 9 into the Redfish Lake Outlet. About 800 of the smolts were raised in the NOAA Fisheries Seattle-area facility. The remainder were raised at the Sawtooth Hatchery. We took 135 photo Thursday as the smolts were being loaded and released.  We put together 30 of those pictures into a Facebook album. Each photo is captioned to tell the story.  You can click the link below to view the album.  You do not need a Facebook account to view the album.  (The photo above is a screen shot of the album collage.)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Salmon headwaters protection proposed

Click on any graphic in this article to see a larger version.
The most distant extent of occupied salmon and steelhead waters within the Columbia River drainage has for decades endured some of the most pronounced road related impacts remaining with The Salmon River headwaters area.

The Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) has proposed to close 2.5 miles of an existing road that fords, encroaches on and even shares the channel with a portion of the upper most reaches of the flowing Salmon River. Four wheel vehicle travel criss-crosses the river causing chronic erosion, scours and washouts.  The road has even been known to "capture" the river.

"This road alignment has proved neither appropriate nor sustainable," said Joby Timm, Area Ranger for the SNRA.

The SNRA proposal would replace the existing road with a new single-track motorized trail and relocate the Headwaters Trailhead to the Chemeketan Campground which is located approximately 3 miles south of Hwy 75 on Forest Road #215.

Public scoping on the proposal were taken from March 8-April 8, 2013.  SNRA Resource Managers and Planners are now evaluating comments to decide whether the project will need a full Environmental Analysis or if a "Finding of No Significant Impact" can be justified.

If the SNRA proposal becomes a project, the existing road would remain open until the new trail could be constructed.  If funding is available, the changes could be implemented no sooner than the summer or fall of 2014.

If funding is not secured within the SNRA budget, success of the project would depend on the support of possible inter-agency, inter-governmental and public-private partnerships.

To help our readers better understand the location and scope of this project, we present below a variety of graphics.  Ranger Timm's official March 8th Scoping Letter is reprinted here verbatim in italics.  (NOTE: Figures 1-3 are not shown in this article. Photos 1-6 are below the letter. See additional graphics below the photo page.)


Dear Sir/Madam,

We are considering a project that may be of interest to you. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of the proposal and provide you an opportunity for comments or questions. Your input is important to us as we begin the analysis of this project in order to help us determine if, or how, it will be implemented.

Currently, Road 70215 beyond (south) of Chemeketan Campground (T6N, R14E, Sections 14, 23, 26, and 35; Blaine County; Figures 1, 2, and 3) follows the valley bottom for the majority of its length, passing through wet meadows (Photo 5), and fording, encroaching, or sharing the channel of the Salmon River (Photos 3 and 4) in several locations. The final ½ mile leaves the bottom, but intersects and fords several side tributaries (Photo 2), as well as the Salmon River one last time. These chronic conditions have existed for several decades, deteriorating substantially at times, such as when the road has captured a segment of river (Photo 3). Avoidance of these scour points or washout segments by road users has also resulted in the slow migration of the road alignment within the valley bottom through time, often creating new conflicts. As such, this road alignment has proved neither appropriate nor sustainable within this valley bottom location

The Sawtooth NRA proposes to relocate the existing Headwaters Trailhead approximately 2½ miles north to the proximity of Chemeketan Campground (Figure 3). This new trailhead would become the terminus of Headwaters Road 70215. A new single-track motorized trail would connect this new trailhead location with the existing motorized Mule Creek Trail (7198) (i.e. trail served by the existing trailhead). The new trail segment would be aligned off the valley bottom, on the gentle to moderate lower east slopes until reconnecting with the existing Trail 7198 (Figure 3, and Photo 6). Beyond the new trailhead, the existing road, as well as a short segment of existing trail, would be closed and natural conditions rehabilitated using established methods, including the locations where the road currently fords or intersects the Salmon River and its source tributaries.

The new trailhead facilities would be designed and established to accommodate a demand commensurate with the existing trailhead, and in recognition of the nearby Chemeketan Campground. If pursued, the proposed changes would be implemented no sooner than summer/fall 2014. The existing system routes would remain open until the new trail and trailhead is complete and ready for use.

The restoration objectives would occur during the fall when site conditions are at their seasonal driest and site restoration efforts are most effective.
These changes are intended to address the chronic resource impacts, while continuing to provide the recreation opportunities common in the area, in sustainable locations. The Sawtooth Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (2012) prescribes Active Restoration and Maintenance of Aquatic,Terrestrial & Hydrologic Resources for the general area containing the project. It also specifically directs objectives that will reduce road related sediment delivery to waterways, including: "modify localized portions of roads and trails within the Salmon River headwaters" (Objective 249). The Salmon River in its headwaters is also designated critical habitat for three species of ESA-protected fish: Snake River Chinook salmon and steelhead, and Columbia River bull trout. For salmon and steelhead, these habitats, near Chemeketan Campground, are the most distant extent of occupied salmon waters within the Columbia River drainage. These road conditions undermine this important habitat, and constitute some of the most pronounced road related impacts remaining within the headwater area.

Our planning is currently underway. A decision regarding the proposal is expected in 2013. The Responsible Official for the decision to be made is Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ranger, Joby Timm. Your feedback regarding this proposal would be most helpful if received by the project leader, Mark Moulton, by April 8, 2013. Please be aware that comments received, including the names and addresses of those who comment, will be considered part of the public record and will be available for public inspection.


Below is the official SNRA graphic depicting the proposed project. 
Additional notes appear below each graphic.

 This is a Google Earth view looking in a northerly perspective.  The red "X" marks Chemeketan Campground.  The Salmon River technically heads on the slopes of an unnamed peak shown as "Y"  The name "Chemeketa" is said to be a Native American word which roughly translates as "meeting place."
 Above is a view looking in a southerly perspective from Chemeketan Campround into the very highest headwaters of The Salmon River.
 Here is a topo from Acme Maps showing the uppermost headwaters of The Salmon River.  If you look closely, you can see how the Headwaters Trail and what is now the Mule Creek Trail #7198 interact with the terrain to cross the watershed divide between the Salmon and Boise River basins.
Finally, here is one more Acme Map.  The red "X" is Chemeketan Campground.  The SNRA proposal essentially wants to protect the fragile areas of the uppermost headwaters of The Salmon River.

(Editor's Note: "Salmon River News" has written an editorial about this project.  Click here to read it.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Halstead Fire benefits mushroom

Now that the 2012 Halstead Fire has long since been entered into the history books, attention turns to a predictable benefit--the harvest of coveted morel mushrooms in The Salmon River headwaters.

Early this month The Salmon-Challis National Forest (SCNF) announced morel mushroom gathering for personal use will be permitted in the Halstead burned area on both the adjacent Sawtooth National Forest.  As an additional bonus, commercial mushroom harvesting will not be allowed within the Halstead burned areas.

Mushroom seasons vary depending on weather conditions but generally last from May through September.  Mushrooms collected under the free use permit must be cut in half lengthwise at the time of harvest and cannot be resold commercially.  Free use harvester are allowed 5 gallons per day (approximately 2 grocery bags) per person.

All mushroom harvesting is limited to hand picking and motorized travel is restricted to open roads and trails only.  Mushroom seekers must carry their permit when they are gathering.

Free use permits for The Halstead burned areas are only available at the SCNF offices in Mackay, Challis, Salmon, Leadore and North Fork.  All offices are closed on weekends and holidays and generally close at 4:30 on weekdays.

Note that mushroom gathering will also be allowed on the Mustang Fire burned area.  However, the Mustang is also open to commercial harvesters as well.

Here are some links to help you understand the presence of morel mushrooms in burned areas:






Salmon Riverfest becomes "can't miss" event

The Salmon Riverfest began in 2011 with an informal downriver race and a weekend party.  Riverfest events expanded last year and included exciting race events near Shoup.  This year, The 3rd Annual Riverfest has really hit its stride and is now a "can't miss" event to help kick off the summer river running season.  Organizers worked all winter to put together a great selection activities for everyone whether they are a river runner or not.

Although Riverfest is a major fund-raiser for the Salmon Whitewater Park Association, it's clear that Riverfest has now also catapulted into a signature event of the annual cycle of the Salmon, Idaho, activities calendar.

The 3rd Annual RiverFest will be held June 7th and 8th in Salmon. Riverfest starts Friday the 7th with an 11 am dedication ceremony to honor local river hermit Dugout Dick on Hwy 93 South at the new interpretive display in his honor.

A Friday night film fest of both amateur and professional outdoor films with pizza, beverages, and raffle will be held upstairs at the Odd Fellows’ Hall starting at 6pm.

On Saturday the 8th, RiverFest will start with an 11am parade on Main Street, followed by a "Blessing of The Boats" and then a fun float from Shoup Bridge to the downtown Island Park river access site under the Hwy 93 bridge.

A standup paddleboard river display and kayaker team big ball challenge will take place early afternoon and can be seen from the Hwy 93 bridge

The Farmer’s Market will be in full swing in Town Square Park from 9-1, followed by a pig roast and the Clumsy Lovers band from 6-9 pm at Town Square Park.

Riverfest organizer Breann Westfall said, "There will be plenty of delicious food, beverages, and an amazing band. Bring your lawn chair, these are definitely spectator events."

Ms. Westfall explained the project that Riverfest benefits:


"Riverfest is a fund raising event for The Salmon Whitewater Park Association (SWPA), a locally driven Idaho non-profit association with a mission to facilitate the fundraising, construction, and longevity of a whitewater park in Salmon, Idaho for recreational river opportunity and to boost the local economy.

Our dedicated group of volunteers consists of Russ Chinske (chairman), Craig McCallum (vice chairman), Amy Tonsmeire (secretary), Mark Troy (treasurer), Breann Westfall (project manager), Chace Slavin, Seth Tonsmeire, Preston Rufe, Michael Philpott, and Jo Philpott.

Although the idea for a whitewater park in Salmon spawned in 2005, our current group has been actively pursuing our goal since summer 2010. The process to build a whitewater park is long, tedious and requires tireless volunteer hours.

SWPA has made much headway in the development of the park. Most recently, a Phase I Agreement was signed between the City of Salmon and SWPA, which includes developing and soliciting for Final Engineering Plans and hiring a local environmental consultant to work on the project's permitting. At the March 20th City Council meeting, the Council voted to accept SWPA's Request for Proposals for Final Engineering Plans under the Phase I Agreement.

This spring and summer, a committee of selected City Councilmen, SWPA representatives, and Lemhi County Economic Development Association representatives will solicit reputable whitewater park engineering firms for Final Engineering Plan proposals. After obtaining the Plans, SWPA will then be able to apply for needed state and federal permits for the park. This will be a detailed process that will involves public meetings and comments. SWPA is eager to understand concerns and implement exactly what the Salmon community wants the park to look like.

To date, SWPA has received grants from the City of Salmon LOT, Steele-Reese Foundation (2011 and 2012), Hemmert Foundation (2005 and 2013), and the Idaho Wild Rivers License Plate Grant. MANY private donations have also made a huge impact on our efforts. We cannot thank the local business owners and Salmon community members enough that have donated to the development of the whitewater park."

Click here for Salmon River Idaho articles on last the two previous Riverfests, as well as the whitewater park:







Salmon River Area Campground Status

Here's Your Sign.
Public developed camping areas are all open from North Fork upriver to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) boundary near Thompson Creek.

All of the BLM and IDFG camping areas along the river can be utilized but may not have running water or a camp host yet.  Typically, these camping areas receive little, if any, usage between the end of steelhead season April 30 and Memorial Day weekend.

About 90% of the SNRA campgrounds are closed, gated and locked.  As of mid-May, only the Whiskey Flats, Mormon Bend and Salmon River campgrounds were officially open.  Upper O'Brien is officially closed but can be used since it is not gated.  During our visit to The Upper Salmon River May 8-10, we observed only one RV camper along the river and no tent campers elsewhere.

Most SNRA campgrounds are managed  under a special-use permit by Scenic Canyons Recreational Services, Inc., Hyrum, Utah.  Currently, the company's web links for SNRA campgrounds are not functioning. Many of Scenic Canyons' camp hosts were in the process of moving in last week.
Redfish Lake overflow area.

The only camping area open near Stanley is an area known as the Redfish Lake Overflow Area.  This area has an improved main road and a pit toilet. There are other dispersed camping areas along the river for four miles above Stanley and 27 miles below Stanley.  Only camp sites with a fire ring and a carsonite sign are legal to occupy. Most of the dispersed campsites are adjacent to Highway 75, have marginal parking and may not have a sanitation facility nearby.

Here is the SNRA's schedule for opening its Sawtooth/Salmon area campgrounds and day use facilities:

Opening May 17
  • Redfish Outlet Campground (CG) & Outlet Day Use and Beach
  • Red Fish North Shore Picnic & Beach
  • Mt. View CG
  • Chinook Bay CG
  • Casino Creek CG
  • Upper O'Brien CG
  • Lower O'Brien CG
  • Holman Creek CG
Opening May 24
  • Sockeye CG
  • Sandy Beach Boat Ramp
  • Glacier View CG
  • Point CG and Point Day use and beach
  • Sunny Gulch CG
  • Stanley Lake CG
  • Stanley Lake Inlet CG
  • Elk Creek CG
  • Pettit Lake CG
Opening May 31
  • Alturas Lake Tent Area
  • Alturas Lake Picnic Area
  • Smokey Bear CG and Smokey Bear Boat Ramp and Picnic Area
  • North Shore CG
  • Alturas Inlet CG and Alturas Inlet Beach and Picnic Area
Opening June 7
  • Redfish Inlet CG
  • Mt. Heyborn CG
  • Riverside CG
  • Iron Creek CG
  • Lake View CG
  • Chemeketan CG



Sunday, May 12, 2013

First Year in Review

The "Salmon River Idaho" website was born May 10, 2012.  That's when we bought the domain name "salmonriveridaho.net."

We had no idea what to expect and, frankly, not much of an idea about what we were going to put on the website. Initially, we thought we would create a detailed river guide from Stanley to North Fork.  However, we quickly realized there was a genuine need for "Salmon River News."

The Salmon River has legions of Friends seemingly everywhere.  The river's Friends are actually more than Friends.  They LOVE Their Salmon River.  Over generations and throughout lives, people has formed a personal relationship with The Salmon River.  The river is part of their heart, spirit and, indeed, their soul.

It didn't take long a year ago to realize this website tapped into a natural need for news about "all things Salmon River."  Whether it's fish, flows, fires or fun, people seem to have an endless appetite for Salmon River News.

What a wildly exhilarating, educational and enjoyable ride the past year has been with this website.  The first year's success of this website has far, far exceeded our own expectations.  We would have been very happy with 10,000 pageviews in our first year.  Instead, we topped 52,000 pageviews on May 10.  That's an average of 1,000 page views a week.  (Pageviews are much different than hits.  Some internet experts say you can generally multiply pageviews by a factor of up to ten to estimate what people call "hits.")

A few days ago, we checked our own website records and were surprised to see we wrote 155 articles during the past year.  We posted over 700 photographs and graphics in those articles.  Those statistics, too, are far in excess of what we anticipated a year ago.

The Halstead Fire article should probably be counted as more than one article since each of the 40+ updates we did were essentially stand-alone articles.  The website's visitors seemingly couldn't get enough of The Halstead Fire article.  It alone had 8,000 pageviews or roughly 15% of the total annual pageviews.

We'd love to tell stories about this website but then this article would become far too long and boring.  Suffice to say we are humbled, pleased, happy and proud of what has transpired during the past 12 months.

We obviously couldn't have done it without our readers.  We are so proud of our website visitors and readers.  It is an honor and a privilege to face the challenge of continuing to provide the content people will want to come and read on a regular basis.

Our website statistics show the majority of our visitors are long-term repeat visitors who generally reside in Boise, Lewiston, Spokane, Missoula, Salmon, Challis, Stanley, Idaho Falls, Sun Valley, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Mountain Home and Salt Lake City.

We have a lot of plans for the upcoming year.  Right now, we have a backlog of at least a dozen articles that need to be written and posted.  We just returned from our first visit to Salmon River Country for Year 2013.  Naturally, we picked up all sorts of news that needs to be reported and stories that need to be told.

Here is a general outline of our objectives for Year Two.

  • Meet or exceed the benchmark of 150 articles in the coming year.
  • Do a better job covering trout stocking, salmon and steelhead seasons.
  • Develop a better working relationship with IDFG and the Department's partners.
  • Include more detailed and comprehensive information about public river access and camping.
  • Develop a better partnership with the three Chambers of Commerce.
  • Promote selected businesses which play a key role in delivering important services to the public.
  • Do a better job explaining the Yankee Fork rehabilitation project and how is relates to the main river.
  • Develop a better relationship with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes.
  • Continue coverage of The Salmon Whitewater Park Project.
  • Continue assisting efforts to create and improve a memorial for Dugout Dick.
  • Attempt to explain the evolving cultural paradigm shift that is happening on The Salmon River.
  • Attempt to interpret The Salmon River's gateway communities for distant readers and visitors.
  • Do a better job integrating watershed education into the website.
  • Make room for freelance feature writers & photographers who might wish to showcase their work.
  • Spend more time paddling the river in our inflatable kayak.
  • Continue to assist, promote and showcase key non-profit organizations.
  • Do a better job organizing the website's archives so they are readily accessible and useful.

During the past year, we learned that Facebook is a genuine, important and vital partner to the success of this website.  We are deeply grateful to our 299 Facebook Friends for all they have done for the Salmon River News website.

In light of that recognition, our goal in the coming year is to increase our Facebook Friends to 1,000 and to help our Friends better understand how the "share" function helps spread the word about "all things Salmon River."  We're all in this together and Facebook helps spread the word far and wide.

We would also like to make better use of our Twitter account.

We plan to spend one week each month along The Salmon River, perhaps more.  We welcome your donations to help defray our travel costs.  Each monthly trip costs roughly $200.  We figure we need to spend at least $1,000 a summer traveling to and from and up and down The Salmon River--and that's if we're tent camping.  Lodging would run that figure far higher.  Last summer we received $185 in donations and that actually helped "the cause" a lot.

Thank YOU so much for YOUR Support!  We are looking forward to the upcoming year.

Let's all Enjoy The Salmon River this summer.  Get out and get your feet wet.  Get Your Fish On and Your Fun Face On, too!  Let The Good Times Roll.

Happy Trails & Many Cheers, John Parsons

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May 1 NRCS Basin Outlook Report

The May 1 status of The Salmon River watershed

As the winter finally morphs to spring, all eyes turn to watch and wonder about the snowpack.  How much snow did The Salmon River watershed actually receive?  What are the forecasts for runoff and stream flow?
Generally, the May 1st USDA NRCS Basin Outlook Report is the most anticipated and widely read of the monthly series from January to June.

Here is what the report says for The Salmon River:


"Four months and counting - that is how long it’s been since the Salmon basin had an above average amount of precipitation. Just to the north all SNOTELs in the Clearwater basin got more than their usual April precipitation, but the wet zone stopped just inside the Salmon basin. Only Mountain Meadows SNOTEL site, the Salmon basin’s most northern site, had above average precipitation for the month. Basin-wide precipitation was 75% of average in April, leaving water year to date precipitation at 91% of average. The Salmon basin snowpack peaked at about 80% of the 1981-2010 normal peak amount. Despite being less than normal this season’s snow remained near its peak amount from late March through late April thanks to melt during warm periods being balanced by additional accumulation during cool, stormy periods. Snowmelt in early April and again during the last week of the month produced two moderate streamflow peaks. There is still plenty of snow left to fuel another snow-melt driven peak. For the MF Salmon expect that peak to occur when the snow at Banner Summit SNOTEL is half melted, which this year will occur when 10 inches of snow water remains. 2007 had a similar snowpack and the MF Salmon had twin peaks in the 5500-6000 cfs range. If the weather stays warm this year’s snowmelt peak could occur by mid-May. Use the snow-stream graphs to track this year’s snowmelt and runoff: 


Depending on the weather, rain can always produce a later peak especially if it occurs before the snow is gone. Streamflow forecasts percentages decreased for the Lemhi from last month, but remained steady for most other points. The May-July streamflow forecasts range from 56% of average for the Lemhi to 80% for the SF Salmon. The MF Salmon is forecast for 80%, while the Salmon at Salmon’s forecast is 70%."

NRCS Water Supply Special Ron Abramovich described this winter's precipitation in a nutshell:

"Apparently, Mother Nature spent most of her snow budget during Christmas this year and forgot to save enough for the rest of winter. After a great start with abundant fall rains and snow, major storms avoided Idaho for the most part shortly after the winter solstice."

Abramovich went on to describe spring weather than would help augment water yield from the below-normal snowpack:

"What is certain and needed now to improve the runoff is rain. Cold and wet is better than just cold. Wet weather would reduce irrigation demand even more, allow farmers to utilize the spring precipitation to replace irrigation water and allow the water saved to be used later this summer when we know it will be dry. Another option to melt snow and increase efficiency or maximize the amount of water that reaches the reservoirs is to turn the heat up. This would increase snowmelt rates to 1-2 inches per day, exceeding maximum soil infiltration rates, allowing more water to reach the reservoirs. However, this option would not benefit natural streamflow water right holders as much, nor those with late summer river rafting trips."

As usual in each monthly Basin Outlook Report, Abramovich includes a Recreational forecast and perspectives:


RECREATION
"Snowmelt streamflow peaks have occurred in the Owyhee, Weiser, and Camas Creek near Fairfield along with other lower elevation watersheds. Cold temperatures and lack of rain near the end of April reduced snowmelt and kept streamflows at near record low levels in late April in the Payette, Boise, and Upper Snake. In contrast, streamflow levels in the Owyhee River and Camas Creek are approaching near record low because of the drought. On the positive side, snowmelt peak flows have not occurred yet on Salmon Falls Creek, Bruneau River and other higher elevation watersheds. Additional snowmelt streamflow relationship information is available on the Idaho NRCS Peak Streamflow Resources web page: http://www.id.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/watersupply/peakflow.html. This page includes streamflow recession graphs to view current trends, and a similar year that is based on the current snowpack, spring ENSO climatic conditions and analog years which are 2002, 1968 and 1963, or years with a similar flow pattern. Snow-streamflow comparison graphs are now automated and will be updated several times per week during the critical runoff season to provide guidance on snowmelt streamflow peaks."

Below is the complete May Basin Outlook Report in embedded format so that you can read it online without downloading it.  The NRCS link to the document is below the embedded version.




Here is the link to the full report:


Thursday, May 2, 2013

First Annual Peak Flow Contest

May 1st marked the debut of The First Annual Peak Flow Contest (PFC).  Two days later, 28 people have already entered the contest.  The PFC is based on our Facebook account which is a companion to this website: https://www.facebook.com/salmonriveridaho

We will be posting on Facebook frequently each day about the PFC.  Due to the way Facebook "behaves," we are also preparing this article so that the supporting data can be easily found.

34 Ace Of Diamonds Street, Stanley (208) 774-3516
First, however, let's review the PFC itself.  Anyone can enter. Only one guess per person will be accepted.  The contest is free.  A Facebook account is not needed to enter.  The prize is a $20 dollar gift certificate from Stanley's famous Kasino Club, plus the winner will have bonus bragging rights for the next year!

Here are the three ways to enter a date and time you think The Salmon River will peak at the USGS Yankee Fork gauge near Sunbeam Village.

  • Comment on a Facebook post about the PFC.
  • Send your guess to: peakflow@salmonriveridaho.net
  • Give your guess in person to Shauna or John Graham at The Kasino Club, 34 Ace Of Diamonds Street, Stanley
Below you will find a variety of various information that may help you create a guess to enter in the contest.  We will add new information here as it is received.  Generally, each graphic has an explanation below the graphic.

Above is a spreadsheet (updated @ 10 am May 3rd) that we will maintain on a daily basis until we are certain that the peak has taken place.  Currently, the average date of guesses for th May peak flow is May 21st.  The average for June is June 10.  The average for July is July 18.


 This is the Galena Summit graph for "Snow Water Equivalent" (SWE).  SWE is really the number to watch. The depth of the snowpack itself is interesting but it's the actual water inside the snow that makes the river run.
 Here is the graph showing the Galena Summit snowpack for the entire Water Year.  A Water Year begins on October 1st and ends the following September 30th.

Here is the link so you can watch the USDA NRCS Galena Summit SNOTEL SWE and snowpack yourself: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/nwcc/site?sitenum=490&state=id

After you click on the above link, the page you will see is shown above.  Click on the link to the right of our red "X" in this graphic.

The graphic above shows what you will see when you have clicked on the link for Snow Depth over the past 7 days.  You can alter the time frame and create a wide variety of reports on the USDA NRCS Snow Survey website.  Astute contest entrants may wish to peruse additional Idaho SNOTEL sites.  The SNOTEL gateway page is located here: http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/snotel/Idaho/idaho.html

 As of April 29th, this is the latest projection of when the overall Salmon River Basin SWE might be totally depleted.  Simply look carefully at the various colored lines and use the key above the chart itself.
Above you see the dates of the Peak Flow at Yankee Fork from 2000-2012.  Unfortunately, there is a data gap prior to Year 2000.
Above is the hydrograph in cubic feet per second for the Yankee Fork USGS gauge from March 1 to April 30.
Above is the water level at Yankee Fork stated in feet instead of cubic feet per second.
Above is a USGS-provided photo of the Yankee Fork stream gauge.  Here it is website:
http://waterdata.usgs.gov/id/nwis/uv/?site_no=13296500&PARAmeter_cd=00065,00060,00010

You can find all sorts of interesting historical information on this website including dates for annual peak flows prior to the Year 2000.

You may also wish to monitor the flows of Valley Creek and The Yankee Fork.  To do so, simply go to the Idaho stream flow site and scroll down to the Salmon River Basin section.  Valley Creek and Yankee Fork are the first two listings.

http://waterdata.usgs.gov/id/nwis/current/?type=flow

Above is a map that shows the area of The Salmon River watershed above the Yankee Fork gauge.  In other words, the stream flow recorded at the Yankee Fork gauge is (at this time of year) predominately a result of the direct melting of snow in the area of the watershed ABOVE the Yankee Fork gauge.
The flow at Yankee Fork is the sum of the Yankee Fork watershed itself (outlined in purple) plus the area of The Main Salmon that is to the left of the red line in the graphic above.
Finally, here is a panorama of the Yankee Fork confluence looking downriver toward the site of the Yankee Fork USGS gauge itself.  The Yankee Fork is coming in from the left.  (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)