Urban Reserve Feels the Love

120 youth and adults took to the hillsides at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lake Reserve in October to create healthier habitat for birds and reduce fire risk. Armed with shovels of all sizes, trowels, and even a post hole digger, the determined volunteers dug through the rocky soil to plant nearly 2,000 native plants. The community planting days were the final public activity for the Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project. The project is led by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Boise River Enhancement Network and City of Boise, funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and supported by numerous local partners.

    

Employees of Corporate Stewardship Partner Xylem      Xylem employee Jessop and sons

A big team of employees from BREN’s 2018 Corporate Stewardship Partner, Xylem Watermark, participated as well as groups from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, College of Western Idaho, Boise Veteran’s Administration, Suez, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Tomorrow’s Hope.  Dozens of community members helped as well. The plants were planted along the upper western edge of the reserve and in the area behind the Maple Grove parking lot.

                     

Lots of plants in the ground and lots of smiling faces!

15-Month Makeover

Over the last 15 months, BREN and LTTV have involved hundreds of community members in activities to improve the habitat at the 44-acre urban reserve. All told, close to 3,000 plants have been planted. 1,500 fire resistant, resilient and drought-tolerant grasses – Sandberg bluegrass, Idaho fescue, bottlebrush squirreltail, and bluebunch wheatgrass – were planted.  Native shrubs were planted – golden current, woods rose, rabbitbrush, bitterbrush, sagebrush, and oakleaf sumac – to crowd out invasive weeds and provide foraging habitat for birds. Willow and thinleaf alder were planted to improve habitat close to the ponds and yarrow, hoary aster and milkweed were planted to support pollinators.

Hundreds of people helped with planting in 2017 and 2018 including the groups listed above and local Rotary Clubs, Boy Scout Troop 100, and the Idaho Fine Arts Academy Interact Club. Idaho Power, Rotary, and the Native Plant Network donated plants to the project.

Volunteers Grow Plants from Seeds

Hundreds of plants now nestled snugly at the reserve were grown by project volunteers. In an incredible display of purpose, volunteers gathered seeds from flowering plants at the reserve in the fall of 2017 and germinated them over the winter.  The seedlings were transplanted in the spring and nurtured over the hot summer months.  Girl Scout Troop 105, College of Western Idaho, Big Brothers Big Sisters of SW Idaho, new Americans from Nepal and other volunteers grew plants. The Golden Eagle Audubon Society Native Plant Network and Land Trust of the Treasure Valley supervised.

       

Spencer and Jon grew plants       New Americans grew plants         Rachelle helps transplant   

Weed Warriors

Volunteers also helped remove unwanted plants.  In 2017, employees of Xylem Watermark helped Boise Parks and Recreation take out Russian olive trees and provide space for willows and black cottonwoods. Volunteer Weed Warriors trained by City of Boise Open Space Restoration Specialist Martha Brabec worked weekly to remove thistle, teasel, goat heads and other weeds.

       

Weeds warriors Dondi, Hilary, John and Anne

Discovering the Reserve

The partnership project hosted field trips and birding outings to the reserve, which, in addition to the stewardship activities, introduced hundreds of people to this hidden oasis.  It was common to hear people exclaim that they’d driven by for years and never stopped. The increase in awareness and appreciation for the unique area is vital to ensure long term community stewardship of the reserve. The project also provided new residents from many nations the opportunity to visit the reserve and learn about the birds and plants.  BREN volunteers and others led groups from the Idaho Office of Refugees, the Agency for New Americans and new residents from Nepal around the reserve and provided binoculars to increase the fun. A big thanks to Golden Eagle Audubon Society and the Boise Watershed for helping.

Stewardship to Continue

Boise City Parks and Recreation and local organizations will continue to enhance the habitat and provide opportunities for citizen stewardship of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. The new plants will require attention until they are well-established. Weed management will always be needed.  Please contact the Boise River Enhancement Network to be added to the volunteer email list.

The Hyatt Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project was led by the Land Trust of the Treasure ValleyBoise River Enhancement Network, and the City of Boise. Project partners include U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Office of Refugees by Jannus, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, Intermountain Bird Observatory, Boise State University, The Wetlands Group, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, College of Western Idaho, and Partners for Clean Water.

Goal Reached to Restore Greenbelt Bridge!

By Jan Johns, Executive Director Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands

September 23 – UPDATE

We met our fundraising goal!

We asked for your help, and you stepped up big time! Thanks to the generosity of you and your neighbors, the Plantation Island Greenbelt bridge and pathway will soon be restored.

Just last month we, the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands, spread the word that we needed your help to repair the Plantation Island bridge that had spanned the beloved Greenbelt. And you listened!

We shared that we had received partial funding for the repairs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). We called on you to help us raise the extra $75,000 needed to get us across the finish line. You did it! As of today we have raised the funds and are gearing up to get the bridge back in action! We could not have done it without you. Thank you!

Special thanks to Foundation for Ada and Canyon County Trail Systems, Linda Yanke, Don and Kay McCarter, and Citizens for an Open Greenbelt for their generous gifts, and to all of you in the community who gave gifts of all sizes! Thanks as well to all the individuals, businesses and organizations that helped spread the word.

Original Post:

Have you asked yourself, “When in the heck is the Greenbelt over the Boise River near the Plantation Golf Course going to be fixed?” Well, you are not alone!

The Flood of 2017 Damages Greenbelt

The west bridge at Plantation Island was located on land owned by the Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands (IFPL), a public benefit nonprofit corporation. During the high water in 2017, the City of Boise, Ada County and the Ada County Highway District paid for the removal of the bridge because the bank was eroding around the bridge abutments. The undamaged bridge was lifted off its abutments by a crane on April 3, 2017 and put down near the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, where it sits today. The bank loss and Greenbelt damage on Plantation Island from the extended record-breaking flow of the Boise River was extensive.

damaged Greenbelt    

Emergency Funds Delayed

Governor Otter declared a flood emergency for Ada County that allowed IFPL to apply for funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with repair costs. Unfortunately, hurricanes and massive forest fires across the nation stretched FEMA resources thin, delaying funding approval for more than a year.

But wait, there’s good news!

Finally, in late June 2018, IFPL received approval from FEMA for partial funding to make the necessary repairs and replace the the bridge. Hoorah! The total repair costs are estimated at $200,000 and FEMA has granted IFPL $120,000. IFPL must now raise at least $75,000.

Bridge Repair Fundraising Campaign Launched

Between now and October, IFPL is fundraising to secure the needed funds. Everyone is asked to pitch in to restore this important bridge between the south and north sides of the river.  Commuters use this route as do children going to school, people going to the fairgrounds, Hawks Stadium, Garden City Library, and many other destinations. Plantation Island is also a great place to birdwatch, walk your dog or go fishing. The Foundation aims to raise the money in the next few months so the work can be done when the Boise River is at low winter flow levels.

Make a gift today!

Help Idaho Foundation for Parks and Lands restore the beloved Plantation Island Greenbelt Bridge. Time is of the essence. Donate now. Thank you!

The west bridge to Plantation Island has been gone since April, 2017.

Parma Rancher Tackles Water Quality

return flowThe Pintail Ranch straddles the Boise River near the Highway 95 bridge by Parma, ID. Doug Bates bought the the beautiful property, in part, to create and improve wildlife habitat on the ranch. Little did he know what was happening on his ranch was harming the fish and wildlife that live in the Boise River. Being a man with a strong stewardship ethic, Mr. Bates has decided to tackle this problem. He’s beginning a phased conversion to a new irrigation system that will prevent tons of sediment from entering the Boise River each year.

Flood Irrigation Causes Problems

Corn is the primary crop at the 1,000-acre ranch, but there are large sections of ground kept in pasture and grazed by cattle.  The row crop land has been irrigated for decades by either pumping or gravity feeding water from the Boise River down long corrugates after which the excess water returns to the river.  Water is delivered to the pastures in the same manner, but the water spreads across the pasture and then returns to the river.

corn field irrgation water in corrugates

This method of irrigation tends to be inefficient, requiring more water to be delivered than the plants can use. This is because fields aren’t flat and additional water has to be dispersed over the ground to irrigate the high spots. As the water flows through the fields it collects sediment, pesticides, chemicals, fertilizer, and phosphates and carries these substances into the Boise River. The moving water also erodes the river bank and field bottoms.   Slag pools form at the bottom of the fields and the cattle tend to wallow there. Cattle actively graze irrigated pastures, also.  Contaminants from cattle excrement are carried to the river in the irrigation run off.

The Pintail Ranch has summer irrigation water rights of approximately 46 cubic feet per second. This equates to the delivery of several million gallons of return water (accompanied by chemicals, fertilizers, and sediment) to the Boise River every 24 hours when the ranch is in full summer irrigation mode.

New Pivot Irrigation System

Mr. Bates is installing pivot sprinkler irrigation on four fields totaling 162.5 acres.  Pivots are more efficient and can irrigate the same acres with less water than needed in traditional flood and ditch irrigation.  Field runoff is nearly eliminated, and chemicals, sediments, and fertilizers stay on the ground promoting crop growth instead of being dumped into the river.  As a result, tons of sediment, along with with phosphorus and other pollutants from these fields will no longer enter the Boise River each year.pivotsinplace

The challenge with pivots should be no surprise; they are very expensive.  Mr. Bates received assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Canyon Soil and Water Conservation District in Caldwell to design the new irrigation system.  In July, the Lower Boise Watershed Council and Canyon Soil and Water Conservation District awarded Pintail Ranch 50% of the project cost, $187,500, from the 2018 State Agricultural BMP Implementation fund.  Phases 1 and 2 have started and are expected to be completed in the spring of 2019.

Mr. Bates said, “Although expensive, we think using pivots instead of ditch and flood watering methodologies is an elegant solution for irrigation.  Pivot irrigation is more efficient in terms of water usage and farming overhead. Most important, we avoid excessive discharge of phosphates, sediment (erosion), and other chemicals into our primary river systems.  We also believe the habitat and wildlife benefit from pivot irrigation methodologies.”

On-site Pollution Management

Agricultural best management practices, including conversion to sprinkler irrigation, are recommended in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. Managing pollution on-site is the best way to improve water quality. Conversion from flood to sprinkler irrigation has been proven to be effective in reducing the movement of sediment and pollutants from the field to the river.

All photos provided by Doug Bates.

deer

Accepting BREN Coordinating Team Applications!

We’re looking for new Coordinating Team members!

The Boise River is shared among everyone in the Treasure Valley, and BREN membership and leadership is inclusive.

Land owners, elected officials, 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. Applications to be place on the ballot to serve on the BREN Coordinating Team will be accepted until August 31.

Learn more about the current Coordinating Team, responsibilities and election process. Please complete this Coordinating Team application by August 31, 2018. If you have any questions or  ideas of who we could reach out to, please contact us at info@boiseriverenhancement.org.

Sediment and Phosphorus Begone

by Hal N. Anderson, Manager, Clean Water Partners LLC.

Can bio-engineered sediment basins and constructed wetlands improve water quality in the Boise River by reducing levels of phosphorus and sediment? In 2014, Clean Water Partners, LLC, (CWP), began a demonstration project at the North Alkali Drain in Canyon County to find out. Now, after four years of operation, data collected by CWP provide evidence that constructed wetlands and sediment basins effectively capture sediment and phosphorus.

Data Report part 1    Data Report part 2

2015-Year 2

Year 4 – 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Alkali Drain has agricultural runoff from crop land and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The location of this drain at the lower end of the Boise River basin includes non-point sources along the drain as well as accumulated pollution loads from upstream sources. This pilot demonstration project is testing the concept that low tech and natural processes can effectively reduce sediment and phosphorus and provide scientific documentation of results.  It is an objective to transport the techniques and processes used to other drainages. With the information generated by this project, regulators, NPDES permit holders and river managers will be better informed regarding the means and methods for nutrient removal from the Lower Boise River and similar basins in Idaho and the West.

This project was designed to be both operational in that water quality is being improved, but maybe more importantly, the project was designed to provide an opportunity for additional research. Improving water quality, especially from non-point sources, requires a diversified approach. While projects like North Alkali are not the only solution, when combined with on-farm, re-use, and water use efficiency improvements, sediment basins and constructed wetlands can provide cost effective and quantifiable improvements to water quality.

North Alkali Drain

Discharge from project

 

 

 

 

 

 

The project was funded 60 percent by federal Clean Water Act funds distributed by Idaho DEQ and the Lower Boise Watershed Council and Canyon Soil and Water Conservation District. The 40 percent match came from the land owner, CWP, The Parma Company and others. CWP committed to measuring the project results for five years and is currently in the last year of monitoring. The results have provided very useful information on the effectiveness of constructed basins and constructed wetlands and also valuable details on how future projects should be designed and operated. Since the project began operation in 2014 approximately 130 pounds of phosphorus and 34 tons of sediment have been removed from the drain water before it enters the Snake River just upstream from the confluence of the Boise and Snake Rivers.

Editor’s Note: The Boise River Enhancement Plan recognizes the effectiveness of constructed wetlands and sediments basins, but cautions they require constant maintenance to dredge and harvest wetland plants.

Data Report part 1    Data Report part 2

Sagebrush is the Smell of Home

By Kali Nelson, US Fish and Wildlife Service

The Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve in Boise, Idaho is a 44-acre urban reserve. It provides habitat for a multitude of species such as red-winged blackbirds, gadwalls, Pied-billed Grebes, snakes, and others. The welcoming paths give visitors a quick and easy way to add nature into their day.

group walking

But the reserve does more than provide wildlife habitat in the city, it also provides a place for people arriving in Boise from all over the globe to connect to their new home. On June 11, more than 40 adult students from the English Language Center took a field trip to the reserve organized by the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Habitat Enhancement project, the USFWS is a project partner. Some students brought their children, so it was a noisy, multi-generational group that got off the bus. The students eagerly picked up binoculars and headed off down the path with volunteers ready to point out the native plants and animals. 

There were exclamations of excitement over the birds. “See the bird nest?” said Allyson Turner of the Fish and Wildlife Service.  “This is where the baby birds hatch,” she said while cradling an imaginary baby in her arms. Smiles of recognition and excitement followed.  Everyone connects with and loves to hear about babies.

The students got a pleasant surprise when they were asked to rub the sagebrush leaves between their fingers and take a whiff.

“Smells like Boise,” one volunteer said, and this was repeated by the student with a large grin.  “Yes, smells like Boise.” Some of the students picked flowers found around the reserve and put them in their hair and everyone laughed when ducklings made an appearance.  birdwatching

The afternoon ended with lunch and a few photos before the students headed home. Regardless of the students’ ages or circumstances, I think it was unanimous that Boise is a cool place to live, with lots of natural space and opportunity- even in the middle of the city.  

A simple field like this is a great way to connect people to their natural world. It also can lead to a whole new generation of biologists – some of the visitors may decide to become conservation professionals.  

Kali NelsonVolunteering for the field trip gave me first-hand experience with people from other cultures. I grew up in Idaho where there’s little ethnic diversity. I really enjoyed the chance to grow by meeting people who didn’t grow up like I did. Clearly, Idaho is changing, and my participation in this event reinforced the positive aspects of growth and change.  

An important part of the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve Habitat Enhancement project is to connect people, especially those from other cultures, to nature.  The more people who appreciate our natural world the way I do, the more voices of support there will be for habitat enhancement. Whether we grew up in Boise or are newly arrived, everyone that day seemed to appreciate the place we call home.  

Boogie for the Boise River

Love to paddle, run, drink root beer or beer, listen to live music, and support the Boise River all in the same day? Here is your perfect opportunity. BREN will be hosting the 2nd Annual River Boogie Duathlon at Quinn’s Pond and Esther Simplot Park on September 16th, 2018.

Register Now!

The race starts with a fun paddle out and back on Quinn’s Pond followed by a beautiful 2-mile loop run on the Greenbelt. Participants can race as an individual or sign up as a team with one person paddling and one person running. This year we’ve added a course just for kids. The kids’ course is a shortened paddle in Quinn’s Pond followed by a 1-mile loop run around Esther Simplot Park. This is the perfect race for the whole family.

 

The race will be followed by live music, root beer, beer, food, raffle drawings, and vendors who all love and support the Boise River.

Register Now!

Volunteers Needed for Race Day

Volunteering at the Boogie is a fabulous way to support the Boise River. There’s a job to suit everyone.  Volunteer sign up.  Follow the registration prompts and select the volunteer option.

   

Thank you to our generous sponsors

Local businesses are supporting the Boogie so that all race proceeds go straight to funding the Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project.

Rotary Southwest Boise     Idaho River Sports      Idaho Whitewater Association     YogAlyssa    Performance and Rehabilitation Chiropractic    Payette Brewing Co     Shu’s Idaho Running Co    Aerial Mastery,  Athleta,  Boise WaterShed,  Bucksnort Soda Company,  COILED Wines,  Dutch Bros,  Guru Donuts, McU Sports,  Roam Wild,  Telaya Wines,  Whole Foods,  Yelp,  YMCA,  Blue Sky Bagels,  Luciano’s 

From Weeds to Wetland

groupposes

By Erin Brooks and Liz Paul

Many hands made quick work of planting over 300 trees and shrubs at Jason Cagle’s constructed wetland in Greenleaf on April 20.  The work involved digging into hard-packed dirt, fording the high-flowing Pipe Gulch Creek, working on steep hillsides and remembering how and where to plant the many species of plants. The Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) and NRCS recruited more than 20 volunteers to help, most of them from Xylem, Inc, BREN’s 2018 Corporate Stewardship partner.  Xylem employees will be participating in three river projects with BREN in 2018.

The Cagle project started in 2017 when Jason approached the NRCS with his idea to transform a weed-infested lot into a habitat-rich wetland.  The site has excellent water availability, and a design was created by NRCS engineer Doug Higbee that included removing the large Russian olive trees from along the ditch and revegetating with native plants, excavating a small wetland and planting willows and shrubs around it, as well as establishing native plants along a second tailwater ditch that runs through the property and on the steep hillside.  The project totals 2.3 acres.

thewetland

The wetland designed by NRCS.

JasonandErin

Jason and Erin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Development in the lower Boise River watershed has resulted in a significant loss of wetlands, and cooperative projects like this can provide important habitat for native birds and animals.  Wetlands also help to reduce nutrient in the water that passes through them. Water quality is a major concern in the Boise River watershed. The NRCS can assist landowners with similar projects through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program which helps to offset the costs for projects that have natural resource benefits.

Due to a long history of land alteration, wetland and riparian areas along the Boise River have been reduced in extent and function. The Boise River Enhancement Plan recommends creation of constructed wetlands to replace some of the lost habitat and enhance water quality.

carryingplants   planting  shovelinhand

Boise River Boating Report

Flows have fluctuated on the lower Boise River this spring, but as the river begins its final downward dance, many people are thinking about getting on the river in their canoes, kayaks and rafts.  Rivers are dynamic natural systems that are always changing.  The lower Boise River is no exception, and the recent weeks of flows above 6,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) and heavy rains and winds, have undoubtedly brought down trees.  You should always expect the unexpected and exercise good judgement when you boat the lower Boise River. And with that caveat, we’re happy to share this report from BREN member Scott Ross who scored an early season trip. You can also learn a lot from the Boise River Guide and Google Earth Tour. Safe boating!

diversion

The Little Dry Creek diversion in 2012

Scott’s Boating Report

Ran the North Channel on Apr 26 @ 2100 CFS and again on May 2 @1250 CFS. Put in at Willow Lane and took out at Linder Road. The Little Dry Creek diversion dam below Glenwood bridge was unrunnable (as usual) and the portage trail on the left just above the dam is choked with debris, making the portage more difficult than in the past. The gravel push-up done last year to divert more flow into the North Channel has washed out, but still the flow into the North Channel is significant and generally provided enough depth on these trips to avoid bottom-dragging.

At this time the channel is generally clear — with two exceptions: 1) A downed tree blocks most but not all of the channel upstream from the pedestrian bridge near Reid Merrill Park. Easy portage or paddle around the tree on river left. 2) The North Channel splits near the Eagle Sewer District wastewater plant and taking the right channel appears to be the best option because it has more flow. However, that channel is completely blocked by a downed tree, forming a dangerous sweeper several hundred yards downstream and requiring a difficult portage. Avoid this channel and instead take the left channel, which has low flow, brushy banks, and tight turns near the split but quickly opens up to a nice, clear channel.

On both trips the flow was high enough to paddle right over the Middleton Irrigation District diversion dam just below the Eagle Island Parkway bridge — no portage necessary!

river float

 

IBO’s Boise River Research Station

By Gregory Kaltenecker, IBO Executive Director

Most people know about the Intermountain Bird Observatory’s Lucky Peak Station high in the Boise foothills. Volunteers help band hundreds of migratory birds there each year. But IBO has a new research station on the Boise River on the pool created by the Barber Dam. This area of the river has been heavily impacted by the dam which was built more than 100 years ago. IBO has plans to restore some of the river’s natural function and improve aquatic and riparian habitat.

IBO has worked for the past five years to secure more than 20 acres of property along the Boise River  in southeast Boise.  First, in 2012, Boise State worked closely with Idaho Transportation Department to secure management of a parcel of river bottom at the Highway 21 bridge.  A few years later, the university purchased an adjoining parcel of riverfront.

For the past few years the Boise River Research Station has been used to develop an outreach and education program headed by Education Director, Heidi Ware.  The long range plan is to make major improvements to the property to enhance its natural features and to develop infrastructure that will aid in outreach activities. Come on the June 6 field trip with the Boise River Enhancement Network to see the area for yourself.

The plan includes restoring a natural side channel and reconnecting it to the river to improve fish and wildlife habitat. Side channel habitat is sorely lacking along the Boise River as a result of urban and rural development.  Side channels provide refuge for fish when river flows are high, and the cover provided by trees and shrubs cools the water and protects the fish from predators. Students learn more when they can explore the riparian area safely, so an interpretive trail system is being planned. To minimize impact on the wetlands and protect critical habitat, raised boardwalks will be installed in some locations.  Wildlife viewing blinds will be built to avoid disturbing wildlife, especially nesting birds. The important upland habitat will also be restored by removing invasive plants and fostering growth of native vegetation like willows and woods rose.  Pollinator gardens filled with flowering plants that bees and other insects rely on with also be built.

Intermountain Bird Observatory Master Plan