What’s that Scum? Perhaps it’s a Harmful Algal Bloom…

Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) seem to be making all of the news these days, from newspapers to national television, from Florida to Washington and most places in between.  So what exactly are Harmful Algal Blooms and why are they such a hot subject right now? Let’s dive in, or maybe we should observe from the shore…

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are single celled, prokaryotes that have been around for billions of years. Similar to green algae (eukaryotes), cyanobacteria uses photosynthesis to create sugars and releases oxygen as a byproduct of this chemical reaction.  Cyanobacteria are often credited for oxygenating the atmosphere billions of years ago.  When cyanobacteria rapidly reproduce in aquatic environments they create blooms with hundreds of millions of cyanobacteria cells.

We often refer to cyanobacteria blooms as Harmful Algae Blooms for several different reasons.  First and most obvious, cyanobacteria blooms are often smelly and unsightly.  Not many people want to swim or fish in waterbodies that look akin to slime you might see in an episode of the Simpsons.  Secondly, algae cells from any type of bloom, harmful or otherwise, eventually die off.  Once the cells die off, decomposition sets in and scavenger bacteria consume the dissolved oxygen from the water.  If the rate of cell death is rapid enough or large enough, dissolved oxygen concentrations can drop low enough to stress or kill fish and other aquatic organisms.  Finally, certain taxa of cyanobacteria are known producers of toxins, which are potentially toxic to humans, pets, livestock, and other wildlife.

Cyanotoxins are toxins produced by cyanobacteria and are considered some of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances.  Cyanotoxins generally fall into a couple of different chemical classes that are known to damage to the liver, interfere with the nervous system, cause cancer, irritate the skin,  and new research is showing that some cyanotoxins may play a role in neuro-degenerative conditions such as ALS and Alzheimer’s. More info on cyanotoxins can be found here  on Environmental Protection Agency’s website.  While there are thousands of different cyanobacteria species, remember that most cyanobacteria do not produce cyanotoxins. Additionally, some species of known toxin producing cyanobacteria may not produce cyanotoxins one day and begin to produce toxins the next day. Most people will assume that cyanotoxins are produced to stop planktovors (animals that eat plankton) from eating the cyanobacteria. However, it appears that this isn’t necessarily the case. Research indicates that cyanotoxins may be used by cyanobacteria in their normal metabolic processes, for nutrient uptake, for example.

If you follow the news closely, you’ve probably heard about HABs or at least some of the problems associated with cyanobacteria blooms.  In 2014, a HAB contaminated a drinking water source leaving hundreds of thousands of people without water in Ohio.  Just this year, 32 cattle were killed by a Harmful Algae Bloom in Oregon.   In 2016, 11 confirmed HABs were reported on Idaho’s lake and rivers.  During the first half of the summer of 2017, there have already been seven confirmed HABs.

Anecdotally, it appears that HABs are increasing in frequency and intensity across the nation.  This could be a product of the public being more informed and therefore reporting more blooms or it could be a product of poor water quality.  In the United States there are over 100,000 miles of rivers and streams, 2.5 million acres of lakes, reservoirs, and ponds, and more than 800 square miles of bays and estuaries that have poor water quality due to excess nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus).  Cyanobacteria are commonly associated with nutrient, specifically phosphorus, enriched waters.   Additionally, at warmer water temperatures cyanobacteria reproduce more quickly and can out-compete nontoxic green algae.  If the average global temperature continues to rise, we may see many more HABs on nutrient enriched waterbodies.

Now that you all know a little about cyanobacteria, cyanotoxins, and HABs – let’s talk about identifying and avoiding the blooms. Cyanobacteria blooms can take on many different colors and structure depending on the composition of the bloom. Often times cyanobacteria blooms cause surface scum that looks like spilled paint, with blue, green, and white colors.  Some blooms will cause the water to look like pea soup. Because of wind and wave action, HABs are known to accumulate around shores of lakes and reservoirs, which can be particularly dangerous to animals looking for a drink.  It is difficult to visually confirm a HAB and it is impossible to tell if a bloom is toxic through visual observation. Because HABs are difficult to identify, we encourage people to avoid contact with all suspicious looking water and report suspected blooms to the local Public Health District, waterbody manager, or the Department of Environmental Quality.   If you are in doubt of the condition or safety of the water, stay out of the water. When in doubt, stay out!

The majority of the cyanobacteria exist in aquatic ecosystems without causing any problems.  When conditions get just right, cyanobacteria begins to multiply and can create HABs, which are potentially toxic to humans, livestock, and other wildlife.  Right now, there are not many short term solutions to reducing or eliminating HABs.  Efforts to reduce HABs should focus on improving water quality, specifically reducing the inputs of nutrients to waterbodies.  Reducing fertilizer inputs on agricultural fields, reducing erosion, and improving wastewater treatment processes are ways to limit phosphorus load to waterbodies.  Additionally, we can all do our part by limiting fertilizer applications on residential lawns and cleaning up pet waste.

For more information on HABs and current water quality advisories in Idaho, please visit this website.

Article by BREN Guest Author, Graham Freeman






Barber Pool – A Completely Different River Experience

by Tom “Chel” Chelstrom

Dipped my paddle

In the cool clear water

Canoe slices through

Like a sleek river otter


Paddle ‘round the bend

What will you see

Splashy little riffle

Or a sweet eddy

People define ideal river trips in different ways. The Boise River “town stretch” from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park is Idaho’s most popular day trip, evidenced by over 100,000 floaters every year. It’s a great day on the river, with gear rentals, shuttles, a river channel maintained for recreation and emergency help nearby.

Chel in canoe

The author enjoying the river

Just upstream from the town stretch, the Barber Pool provides a completely different river experience for those willing to exchange some energy and portaging skills for a more personal view of the river. Portions of the Barber Pool are visible from Diversion Dam, the highway 21 bridge, the greenbelt and the Oregon Trail Reserve. I think the best way to experience the Barber Pool is on the water; to do that you have to portage- carry your gear to the river and around obstructions. The reward is a wildlife-rich escape from the busy urban river downstream.

The Barber Dam was built in 1906. The dam created the Barber Pool, a pond for logs headed to the mill.  Today, it is administered by the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, and serves as a conservation and research area. There are three challenging portages in the three miles from Diversion Dam to Barber Park.

Parking is available at Lucky Peak State Park- Discovery Picnic area and at Diversion Dam. The small reservoir between Discovery Park and Diversion Dam is a great place to practice paddling forwards, backwards and sideways; ferry across the current and get in and out of eddies.

There is no marked or maintained portage around Diversion Dam. Take out at the buoys and hike up a steep, slippery rock bank on river right (the right bank of the river as you are facing downstream). Walk down the greenbelt and look for a faint path to the river near the old cable car. Watch out for the abundant poison ivy in this area. This is a bushwhack for the determined. The reward is close to a mile of seldom paddled river.

A simpler way to enter the Barber Pool is to park in the large, undeveloped parking area on river right, just downstream of the Idaho Highway 21 bridge. You’ll see a few obvious but unimproved, steep and slippery paths leading down to the river.  After you cross the greenbelt and hike down to the floodplain, take a moment to marvel at the scouring and regrowth from this year’s flooding! Hike another few minutes under the bridge and you will be at a nice beach and put-in.

Floating Barber Pool

Floating Barber Pool Photo by Gary Grimm

The next couple of river miles are perfect for easy floating, fishing and wildlife watching. Look for a sign reading “keep right, portage ahead” posted on the head of an island, about a mile and a half downstream of Idaho 21 bridge. The Barber Dam portage is another half mile downstream of the sign.

Barber Dam has the most obvious, developed portage on the Boise River. Look for a large wooden staircase on river right. Follow the signs; it’s a few hundred yards around the dam and chain-link fence to the put in.

Downstream from Barber Dam, a short paddle through a rarely seen stretch of the Boise River leads to the Nampa- Meridian Irrigation District’s Ridenbaugh Canal diversion. Portage on river right. Take out at Eckert Road/ Barber Park, or paddle on another 60+- miles to the Snake River confluence. You can learn more about boating the Boise River by consulting the Boise River Water Trail Guide and Interactive Google Tour. Please note that this year’s high water caused major river channel changes, so please boat responsibly.

The Barber Pool is an urban adventure!

Seeking Nominations for BREN Coordinating Team

We’re looking for BREN members to join our Coordinating Team!

BREN Coordinating Team
The Boise River is shared among everyone in the Treasure Valley, and BREN membership and leadership is inclusive. Land owners, water users, consultants, researchers, resource managers, river recreation enthusiasts, teachers, environmental advocates, government workers, water managers, business owners and all those who live, work and play in the Boise River Watershed are encouraged to apply.

The BREN Coordinating Team is elected by the General Members to act on behalf of BREN. Nominations for 7 seats on the BREN Coordinating Team are now open. Please complete this Coordinating Team application by August 31, 2017. We hope you will apply!

Responsibilities and Election Process

The Coordinating Team is delegated the authority to act on behalf of the Boise River Enhancement Network:

  • The Coordinating  Team  will  provide  direction  to  BREN  in  order  to  achieve BREN’s vision, including setting goals, policies and procedures
  • The Coordinating Team will hold at least 6 meetings per year
  • Each member of the Coordinating Team will participate in most of the Coordinating Team  meetings  each  year,  demonstrate  a  commitment  to  BREN  through  involvement  in  BREN work and cooperate with others to fulfill BREN’s vision.

The Coordinating Team election will be held online for seven days starting September 18, 2017. All BREN members are eligible to cast one vote for each of the vacant Team seats. If there are more candidates than Team seats, then the candidates with the most votes will be elected.

E. coli Plagues Local Pond

By Kate Harris, City of Boise

You may have seen the “Pond Closed” signs at City of Boise ponds this year or heard about the City’s decision to close Esther Simplot Park to dogs.  The City closed both Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park ponds on June 21 due to E. coli concerns.  Quinn’s Pond was reopened on June 30th, while Esther Simplot Park ponds remain closed. The City of Boise has a robust water quality sampling program in place, and staff are working to reduce bacteria concentrations and reopen Esther Simplot Park ponds as quickly as possible.

Esther Simplot Park

Esther Simplot Park Photo City of Boise

Water Quality Monitoring Protocol

The City of Boise worked with the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and Central District Health in 2013 to formalize monitoring, reporting, and public notification protocols.  The City collects E. coli bacteria samples in City-owned ponds specifically designated for swimming weekly, April 1 – September 30th.  E. coli concentrations are evaluated based on Idaho water quality standards. If a sample exceeds 235 CFU/100 mL, or exceeds the geometric mean of 126 CFU/100 Ml, the City increases the sampling frequency (daily M-F) to closely monitor bacteria levels. The City currently monitors Esther Simplot Park ponds, Quinn’s Pond and recently added Veteran’s Park pond although it is not specifically designated for swimming.

Microbial Source Tracking

The City of Boise contracted with a laboratory to help determine the sources of fecal bacteria in Quinn’s Pond and the ponds at Esther Simplot Park.  Source Molecular used fecal Bacteroidetes, a phylum of bacteria found primarily in the intestinal tracts and mucous membranes of warm blooded animals for source tracking, to identify the fecal bacteria sources. The City of Boise is still collecting data to complete a robust study, but three consecutive samples (each separated by at least a week) confirmed the presence of dog and goose fecal biomarkers in the ponds.

The City Takes Action

The City closed both Bernadine Quinn and Esther Simplot Parks to dogs.  One gram of goose poop (1 gram equals approximately the weight of a business card) contains 10,000 fecal coliforms, while one gram of dog poop contains 23 million fecal coliforms.  One good size dog pile can have 3 BILLION fecal coliform bacteria in it!!

Canada geese

Canada geese Photo Ken Miracle

To reduce the impact of geese, the City has increased geese “hazing” activities in the pond and along its banks.  Geese are herded off the ponds and annoyed several times a day to encourage them to move.  In addition, poop cleanup activities have increased in the Park, especially along the beaches and areas that runoff into the pond.

People were also identified as a source of fecal bacteria to Esther Simplot Park ponds. The City confirmed there is no wastewater connection to the City of Boise collection system (sewer) and are working to confirm that private systems in the area are also not contributing sources.

While the major sources have been identified and are being reduced as much as possible, the City is continuing to research all of the ways that the bacteria is entering the pond (stormwater sources in the area, runoff from irrigation, sediment sampling, etc.). DNA studies are also continuing.

The City is investigating the feasibility of moving more water through the ponds in the future.

Cooperation and Gratitude

The City of Boise has been working closely with other agencies to ensure that we are protecting public health, and providing public notification, to investigate potential treatment options, and to reduce the likelihood of elevated E. coli concentrations from entering the ponds in future years.  In particular, the City would like to thank Lance Holloway and Idaho Department of Environmental Quality staff, Christine Myron and Central District Health staff, and staff from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Click here for Kate’s full article that includes water quality monitoring data

LTTV & BREN Awarded Grant from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

It’s another win for enhancement! The Land Trust of The Treasure Valley (LTTV) and BREN have been awarded a grant by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to restore upland and wetland/riparian habitat at the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in Boise, Idaho.

The 44-acre wildlife reserve is owned by the City of Boise and provides extensive wetland habitat and sagebrush, grass and shrub upland habitat in an otherwise urban setting. Over 150 bird species have been documented using the site, along with bats and other non-game animals. The site also treats stormwater; a vegetated sand filter treats stormwater from 57 acres before it flows into the Reserve’s wetlands and then to the Boise River less than one mile away, thus buffering the effects of urban runoff on the Boise River. However, a recent survey shows 58% of the plant species are exotic non-natives. The uplands are especially overrun with undesirable species including cheatgrass, quackgrass, kochia, tumblemustard, and Queen Anne’s lace. These invasive plants cause a marked reduction in biodiversity as well as a significant fire risk to the Reserve and surrounding neighborhoods.

The grant will be used to restore native vegetation by removing weeds and cultivating and planting native plants on 12 acres. Many partners including LTTV, Intermountain Bird Observatory, The Wetlands Group LLC, and Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign will serve on the expert team to ensure the work plan is scientifically sound. Under the leadership of BREN and the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, experts and community members will create and implement a habitat restoration work plan that includes 5-year goals, timelines, assignments and evaluation criteria making it possible for the City of Boise to realize the full potential of this easily-accessible urban reserve. We are also partnering with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Idaho Office of Refugees to develop a multicultural stewardship program that provides outreach and engagement to low-income and refugee populations.

Stay tuned for more information on this project in the months to come!


Plant List for Riparian Enhancement

By Roger Rosentreter PhD, plant ecologist and river lover:

High water!  Means you have an opportunity to improve your little bit of the Boise River. Control of invasive species to improve the function and value of critical riparian habitat is a top recommendation of the Boise River Enhancement Plan, and now’s the time everyone can make a difference.

Invasive weed Amorpha fruiticosa

High water has come and gone and public and private riverside land stewards can take advantage of the changes in soil deposition or loss to enhance riparian vegetation. Whether it’s an area that was inundated for months or a bank that’s in need of stabilization, landowners should plant good and remove bad plants for a healthier, more flood-resilient river.

Brown Trout. Photo Eric Brecker

Native vegetation provides food for insects, both terrestrial and aquatic. Native cottonwoods and willows leaves are shredded by aquatic insects and these insects provide food for fish in the Boise River. This is part of Mother Nature’s food web. In contrast, exotic trees and shrubs like Russian olives and lead plant (Amorpha fruiticosa) have leaves with hairs or oils that native insects have not evolved to eat. Native insects have taken thousands of years to co-evolve with native plants. Leaves from Russian olive trees fall into the Boise River come autumn and are similar to inorganic trash, rather than part of the food web. These exotic trees and shrubs are not good for our Boise River fish.

Many cities prohibit the removal or destruction of native plants in the riparian area, so know before you pull or cut anything. My plant list (below) contains the most common and easily planted and maintained native species. For help identifying or sourcing native plants ask local nursery staff, Idaho Botanical Garden staff, and read the Idaho Native Plant Society booklet, Landscaping with Native Plants of the Intermountain Region.

Plants recommended for planting along the Boise River.  Compiled by: Roger Rosentreter.

Common Name  Genus and Species Notes
Red-osier dogwood Cornus sericea (stolonifera) Red stems
Woods’ rose Rosa woodsii Small straight thorns, native
Silver sagebrush Artemisia cana Tolerates ephemeral flooding, for dry sites near the river
Willows Salix spp. Shrub type willows
Oak leaf sumac Rhus trilobata (Grow low type or the regular taller shrub) Drought tolerant, firewise, native
Golden currant Ribes aureum Early spring flowers, drought tolerant
Black Cottonwoods Populus spp. Tall trees
Chokecherry Prunus virginiana Tall shrubs
Netleaf hackberry Celtis reticulata For dry rocky places near the river
Louisiana sage Artemisia ludoviciana Herbaceous sage
Goldenrod Solidago Canadensis or others Herbaceous, butterfly attractant
Willow aster Aster hesperius Tolerates flooding
Milkweed Asclepias speciosa Monarch butterflies, rhizomatous
   GRASSES, and grass-like plants  
Canada bluegrass Poa compressa Tolerates saturated and dry soils, use seeds not plants. Short drought tolerant sod forming grass
Great Basin  wildrye Elymus cinereus Tall bunch grass
Sheep fescue Festuca ovina short drought tolerant bunchgrass




What is growing along the Boise River?

This year’s high river flows deposited sediment and scoured new ground surfaces for a variety of native and non-native plants to grow. So what is growing along the Boise River? Thanks to wetland expert Chris Murphy from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, joined by botanist Dr. Roger Rosentreter and riparian ecologist Dr. Rob Tiedemann, BREN members got an up-close look at numerous seedlings, saplings, herbs and grasses.

Black Cottonwood

Black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) seedlings were growing in abundance along newly deposited sediment. Cottonwood seedlings are identifiable by their red stems and serrated leaves. Unfortunately, most of these seedlings will not survive because the river flows were drawn down too rapidly, lowering the water table below their rooting zone.

How can you tell between a cottonwood sucker and a sapling grown from a seed? Look at the base of the plant. The sucker will be thicker along the base where it has emerged from the root system of a mature cottonwood tree. Suckers are genetically identical to the parent tree, whereas cottonwood seedlings provide genetic diversity.

Black cottonwoods are considered a keystone species in the Boise River system, as many wildlife species rely on cottonwood for critical habitat. For an in-depth discussion on black cottonwood and river flows, please refer to Dr. Tiedemann’s blog on the subject.

False indigo

As a seedling, false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa L.) looks kind of like black cottonwood – but don’t be fooled! False indigo seedlings are distinguishable by rounder, non-serrated leaves that grow opposite from each other. Unlike the cottonwood seedlings, false indigo is tolerant of drier soils. So if you see it, pull it! False indigo has become invasive along the Boise River, easily outcompeting most native woody shrub species.

A tribute to their robust rood systems, these mature false indigo plants survived through weeks of inundation and force from the river.

Wood’s rose

Another look-alike, Wood’s rose (Rosa woodsii) kind of looks like false indigo but notice the shorter, serrated leaves and of course, the thorns. Wood’s rose is an important native shrub species.

Non-native Trees

We saw numerous silver maple and catalpa seedlings. Both are non-native, so does that make them “bad”? On one hand, they take up space where native trees, such as the cottonwood, could otherwise grow. But on the other hand, they provide important habitat and are better suited for reproduction in the regulated Boise River system.

Are there any trees that should be removed? Scientists are not all in agreement, but our experts list tamarisk (Tamarix spp.), tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) and Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) as the worst offenders, as they alter the surrounding environment to their own benefit and at the expense of natives, provide marginal habitat for wildlife, and are largely left alone by insects. In short, they don’t participate in the ecosystem.

Other weedy plants

Numerous weedy plants have quickly established themselves on the newly formed and cleared surfaces, such as pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), pinappleweed (Matricaria discoidea), jointed goatgrass (Aegilops cylindrica) and quackgrass (Elymus repens).

So what’s growing along the Boise River? A lot of the same plants, including invasives, that were established along the river before the high water. The best thing riverfront homeowners and volunteer groups can do to help natives plants thrive is to remove noxious and invasive species. Learn more about the importance of native riparian habitat  in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. If you’re interested in learning more, consider becoming a Weed Warrior!





BREN Receives BOR WaterSmart Grant!

We have great news for the Boise River – the Boise River Enhancement Network has been awarded $100,000 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to implement Phase II of the WaterSMART Cooperative Watershed Management Program! The grant was submitted and supported with the following partners: Ted Trueblood Chapter of Trout Unlimited, City of Boise, The Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Intermountain Bird Observatory, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise Valley Fly Fishers, and the Ada County Highway District.

Project funds will be used to restore the natural function of the last 440 feet of Cottonwood Creek where it enters the Boise River in Julia Davis Park in downtown Boise. Cottonwood Creek is currently buried in a flume starting where it enters the city, and ending in a concrete and stone outlet that dumps into the Boise River. Once ‘daylighted,’ Cottonwood Creek will provide an array of ecological, educational and aesthetic benefits. The Boise River Enhancement Plan recommends daylighting tributaries to improve habitat complexity and geomorphic function of the river.











(Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Initial Design)

The project will provide new instream fish habitat to support spawning, rearing, and over-wintering, all of which are limiting to the Boise River fishery. Native whitefish, native sculpin, and naturally spawning rainbow and brown trout will benefit from this project. Completion of this project will also create 0.35 acres of riparian and wetland habitat providing new habitat for native wildlife and improving water quality through the capture, filter and removal of pollutants.

Daylighting Cottonwood Creek has been in the master plan for the park as well as in the City of Boise’s master plan for more than 15 years. Funds will be used in the first year to update and revise the 2003 project plan developed by the Ted Trueblood Chapter of Trout Unlimited and in the second year to construct the channel and review performance. The estimated completion date is September 30, 2019.

The project includes a robust engagement, education and outreach component with many opportunities for volunteers to participate (see timeline below). Stay tuned!

Activities and milestones for the Cottonwood Creek Daylighting project.

Date(s) Activity
Oct – Dec 2017 1)      Formalize partnerships with cooperators: City of Boise (both Boise Parks and Recreation and Public Works), Boise State University, US Forest Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Army Corps of Engineers, Ada County Highway District, and Idaho Department of Water Resources.

2)      Create Community Engagement Workplan that describes the kinds of community engagement and volunteers (professional, manual labor, skilled, etc.) needed, when needed, and who is responsible for recruitment including a calendar of planned community engagement opportunities (e.g open house, willow planting).  The plan will also establish quantifiable goals for engagement.

3)      Create a Community Engagement database and use it to track community engagement and volunteer activity.

4)      Create a Public Relations Workplan that includes dates for press releases, media tours, public events, blogs, presentations, videos, project updates, describes the social media strategy, and assigns responsibilities. Goals for number of people reached will be established.

5)   Create a Knowledge Transfer workplan that includes tasks and a timeline to ensure that knowledge of the project, including design, permitting, partnership creation, construction, community engagement and monitoring, is transferred to other stakeholders in the watershed to support Boise River enhancement. Goals for the number of stakeholders reached in Ada and in Canyon counties will be established.

6)   Create a plant palate and planting plan: The Land Trust will work with the Intermountain Bird Observatory and local restoration and water quality experts to create the planting palate desired and a site plan to guide the planting effort.

7)   Cottonwood seedlings will be grown from seed collected nearby which will help get a jump start on the enhancement effort. Volunteer effort will begin.

8)   Additional plant material will be grown by the Land Trust and its partners over the course of the project, building an inventory for enhancement for this specific project.

Jan. – June 2018 1)      Update technical design and develop work plan and monitoring plan of daylighting project.

2)      Provide opportunities for public input on design.

3)     Seeds will be collected and riparian shrub cuttings will be prepared for planting.

April 2018 Develop RFPs for Contractors: clearing & grubbing; asphalt removal; irrigation demo, temporary supply, final repair; excavation of channel; plants; turf replacement; concrete & asphalt; park elements.
July 2018 Secure all necessary permits
July 2018 1)      Promote the daylighting project in local media and with target audiences.

2)      Secure balance of implementation funds needed.

July 2018 Selection of Contractors; Contracts Established
Sept 2018 1)      Community Engagement Report that tracks numbers of volunteers, jobs accomplished, hours volunteered and basic demographic data.

2)      Communication/Education Annual Report that describes public relations and knowledge transfer activities and results.

Oct 2018 – Feb 2019 Construction window:
Day 1 Survey
Day 2 -3 Turf Clearing & Grubbing; Irrigation Preparation
Day 4 – 10 Earthwork – excavation of channel; grading; install gravels
Day 7 – 9 Headwall & Railing at Daylighting point
Day 11 – 14 Installations: interpretive kiosks, park elements, irrigation
Day 15 – 16 Landscaping
3 months after up to 5 years Assess Performance Measures: Water Quality, Fish presence, etc., as determined in monitoring plan
6 months after award Semi-Annual Performance Report
9 months after award 270-day Performance Report
Sept 30, 2019 1)      Final Performance Report

2)      Community Engagement Report that tracks numbers of volunteers, jobs accomplished, hours volunteered and basic demographic data.

3)      Communication/Education Annual Report that describes public relations and knowledge transfer activities and results.


Weeds Fall Prey to High Water and Citizens

By Alan Crockett

This year, 2017, the big news regarding the Boise River is the high flow.  And while that’s challenging news for some homeowners and we who recreate on the Greenbelt; there’s good news too.  The most desirable trees along the Greenbelt are the native Cottonwoods and Willows; both can withstand the flooding.  In fact, flooding and a bare seedbed is just what Cottonwoods need for regeneration. This regeneration has been missing on the Boise River where flows are now controlled by dams and reservoirs.

It’s also good news because some noxious and obnoxious weeds may be set back or killed by prolonged inundation.  An example, the Russian Olive is an invasive tree that has been reported to be controlled by flooding.  We shall see since there are hundreds of small Russian Olive trees in Marianne Williams Park and they are under water.

WhitetopPretty But Noxious

One noxious weed that may be controlled is Whitetop (also known as Hoary Cress), now in flower along the Greenbelt.  Noxious weeds are non-native invasive plants declared as noxious by the government because of their potential economic damage.  Whitetop displaces native plant species and reduces biodiversity, wildlife habitat and forage production.  It is poisonous to cattle.  Herbicides are only marginally effective on Whitetop; also, the roots go down many feet making pulling ineffective on established plants.

According to a Montana University Report, flooding can be a useful method for controlling Whitetop. Apparently successful flooding to control Whitetop requires continuous submersion from May until September in most cases.  In our case, some of our whitetop will be flooded from March through June or longer.  We can hope it works, but the bare ground that will be left behind will be an open invitation to seeds of both desirable and undesirable plants.

Citizen Volunteers Combat Weeds

volunteersCitizen volunteers can play an important role in controlling invasive plants along the Boise River. While volunteers are limited in the controlling weeds on public land along the Greenbelt because we’re prohibited from using chainsaws or applying herbicides, we can help control some weeds by pulling or severing the taproot and preventing them from going to seed.  If the seeds are short lived in the soil, it should be possible to control some weeds in just a few years.  Poison Hemlock, Houndstongue, and Spotted Knapweed are three examples of noxious weeds found on the Greenbelt whose seeds survive for only about 3 years.

Other plants, including trees, can be controlled as seedlings, and plants like biennial thistles can easily be controlled by severing the taproot prior to blooming.  With a little knowledge of how to ID these plants and a knowledge of their growth characteristics, we should be able to make a significant difference in areas that have small populations of plants.

Control of Russian Olive and other established trees can be facilitated by public and private landowners by cutting the trees using chainsaws and immediately painting the stump with an appropriate herbicide.

Weed Warrior Orientation

Martha Brabec, Restoration Specialist for the City of Boise, is working on a plan to prioritize remediation efforts and provide information on plant identification and control methods.  She’s starting a program like Montgomery County’s Weed Warrior program. Participants will train on weed ID and removal with her in the field and in the classroom, and then are “certified” to complete tasks on their own. Weed warriors will log hours, weeds removed and locations using an on-line form, and will have monthly or bi-monthly group projects. I’d love to see you at the upcoming orientation.

Weed Warrior Orientation
May 31, 6:00 – 7:00 pm
Foothills Learning Center

Editor’s Note: Implementation of a comprehensive invasive and non-native weed control program is recommended in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. The cottonwood forest along the Boise River was historically vast and had an understory comprised of willow, alder, birch and rose; this has been compromised by a mix of non-native and invasive species, including false indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), several grasses, (e.g. reed canarygrass [Phalaris arundinacea]), poison hemlock (Conium maculatum), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), and various deciduous trees.  These species out-compete native plants and decrease the function and value of wetland and riparian habitat. The Boise River Enhancement Plan identifies the removal and management of these species as a priority action.


Science Proves Benefits of High Flows

by Rob Tiedemann, Ph.D.

    1. “What do we want . . . empirical science.  When do we want it . . . after peer review.”
        1. (April 22, 2017 Sign displayed at the March for Science, Boise, Idaho)

      By any objective measure employed by peer reviewed science – including species diversity, number of habitat types, and community structure – rivers and their forested floodplains provide greater quantity and quality of wildlife habitat as compared to reservoirs.  This is intuitive to most of us who recreate in the outdoors and interact with anglers, hunters, and naturalists.

      Periodic flood flows are needed to maintain the health of riparian habitat.  Among other public benefits, flood floodplainflows: (a) recharge the shallow groundwater aquifer which later releases water to down river wetlands, (b) sweep the channel free of debris and maintain the conveyance capacity of the river, (c) control noxious weeds by physical disturbance and prolonged inundation, and (d) establish a seedbed for black cottonwood, the dominant native tree species of the region.

bald eagle
Cottonwoods are intolerant of shade and require flood flow events to provide fresh alluvium within the channel, and scour of the adjacent floodplain to remove competing species that may shade young seedlings.  In unregulated rivers, this commonly happens only one in ten years, leading to the establishments of cohorts of cottonwoods in large, same age stands.  The resulting mosaic of blocks of cottonwoods of different sizes – seedlings, whips, immature, and mature trees – contributes to the diversity of habitat for wildlife, especially birds which include bald eagle, osprey, great blue heron, black capped chickadee and other song birds.

black-capped chickadee


The cottonwood forest is also essential for its contribution to the base of the food web, and is the principal source of nourishment for the aquatic ecosystem.  Each fall, the massive amount of leaf litter that falls to the ground flushes to the river and provides the carbon needed to fuel the ecosystem.  No other species contributes an equivalent amount of energy to feed the community of aquatic insects, that feed the fishes making the river their home.


downy woodpeckerLastly, the cottonwood forest lessens the impacts of urbanization by shading the river and moderating water temperatures to make the river habitable for cold water species like rainbow trout.  And, it sequesters nutrients, like phosphorous, which has been documented in the scientific literature to cause nuisance blooms of algae in the Lower Boise River.

The profits to the public resulting from the remaining free flowing portions of the Boise River and its tributaries are observable, measurable, and have been demonstrated repeatedly.  These three criteria are the foundation of science and distinguish it from speculation, casual observation, or self-serving interest.  Public policy will determine future management of the Boise River.  I value that which is based on information with origins in science.  It’s a good way to do business.

Rob Tiedemann, Ph.D.
Certified Professional Wetland Scientist – Society of Wetland Scientists No. 0000702
Certified Wetland Delineator – US Army Corps of Engineers April 15, 1994
Certified Fisheries Scientist – American Fisheries Society No. 1,717
Certified Wildlife Biologist – The Wildlife Society December 10, 1986
Certified NPDES BMP Designer – Idaho Transportation Department 1996

Photos: Boise River Floodplain by Community LLC

Bald Eagle, Black-capped Chickadee, and Downy Woodpecker by Ken Miracle