Fall at the Reserve

With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, BREN, the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley and many other community partners have started a new project at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. The goals of the 18-month project are to improve hillside habitat at the reserve and introduce new visitors to the urban open space.

Alan Crockett

Alan Crockett plants willow donated by Idaho Power at the reserve on Nov. 3

Xylem Inc. employees Marie, Michael, Ladd and Kristin spent a morning removing russian olive trees at the reserve.

BREN Coordinating Team member Lisa Harloe points out ducks to Indra, a new resident from Bhutan on Oct. 30.

Mu Hla Htoo and Hserry enjoy bird watching during a project field trip on Oct. 17.

              

The reserve has a variety of wetland and hillside habitat. Photos by Ken Miracle.

       

Many birds are found at the reserve. Photos by Art Robertson.

New Partnership Improves Wildlife Habitat and Enriches Lives

The Boise River Enhancement Network is thrilled to be a lead partner in a new and innovative project at the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. Nestled in a residential and commercial area in West Boise, the reserve is a hidden gem of nature. The series of ponds, wetlands and hillsides blend together to create a unique pocket of wildlife habitat in the center of urban Treasure Valley.

Reserve Entry sign

Photo by Ken Miracle

The reserve, managed by the City of Boise City Parks and Recreation and Public Works Departments, is guided by a 17-year-old community-generated Master Plan. Visitors can enjoy nature trails with benches, interpretive signs and there are restrooms and two parking areas. Community members and people from near and far use the reserve year-round, attracted by the rich bird life, the wide paths and the outstanding scenery.

BREN and the Land Trust of the Treasured Valley secured a grant to build on the past success of the reserve and improve the habitat and introduce new visitors to the site.  With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Conservation Program, and more than a dozen community partners, the 18-month ‘Multi-Cultural Habitat Enhancement Project’ (project) is an innovative initiative that’s already generating enthusiasm.

Bird-friendly, fire-resistant vegetation will replace the weeds on hillsides at this popular walking and birding destination and the partnership will provide new residents from many nations the opportunity to visit the urban reserve and participate in habitat stewardship activities. The goal is for community members of all backgrounds to develop a connection to this unique outdoor space.

“One of the great things about living in the Treasure Valley is enjoying nature close to home,” said Tim Breuer, Project manager and Executive Director of the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley. “This new initiative is meant to improve habitat and introduce new residents to these special places.”

Visitors use bird checklist

Lisa Harloe assists visitors with their bird checklist

On October 17, 2017 BREN Coordinating Team members Lisa Harloe and Heidi Ware were part of a team of project partners that helped 40 students from the English Language Center (ELC) explore the reserve. The ELC is a skill development center for adult refugees who recently arrived in Idaho, and it was the first time to the reserve for all of them.

ELC instructor Steve Rainey said, “Connecting with nature is healing, and a group trip is a great way to discover this public park. Now the students can go to the reserve with their families and, if they want, there will be opportunities for them to work side-by-side with other volunteers to take care of this welcoming place.”

Qaiser birding     Birding

Qaiser (left) and the other visitors saw many of the birds that live at the reserve including American coots, Pied-billed grebes, and Red-winged blackbirds.

Dumpster

Debris removed

Volunteers from many organizations have already started removing debris to prepare the reserve for plantings next year. City of Boise Open Space Restoration Specialist Martha Brabec is drafting the Hyatt Habitat Enhancement Plan with help from volunteer habitat experts, including BREN Coordinating Team members Tamsen Binggeli and Lisa Harloe and BREN volunteers Roger Rosentreter and Alan Crockett. The City of Boise actively encourages community stewardship of its reserves and seeks to expand and diversify its capacity.

Heidi, Kristin, Tim      lunch volunteers

(left) BREN CT member Heidi Ware, Boise Watershed and BREN volunteer Kristin Gnojewski, and LTTV Executive Director Tim Breuer. (right) BREN volunteers David Monsees, Caroline Morris and Jeanette Ross served up a great lunch for everyone at the reserve on Oct. 17

“Public volunteers play a key role in wildlife habitat conservation in urban areas and being a conservation volunteer enriches their lives,” said project partner Ally Turner, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, “This exciting project will introduce newly arrived residents to the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve and to the rewarding experience of working with others to protect the places we love.”

The project is led by the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Boise 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, and Partners for Clean Water.

Monitoring Shows Progress Towards Reducing Boise River Phosphorus Levels

By Lauren Perreault, USGS

For decades, the lower Boise River downstream of Lucky Peak Reservoir has been highly enriched with phosphorus. Too much of a good thing, the high concentrations of phosphorus create a cycle of excessive plant growth, decreased oxygen for fish, and even algal blooms. But things may be turning around. Water-quality monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) shows that phosphorus concentrations in the lower Boise River are down one third since 2015.

From below Lucky Peak Dam to the confluence near Parma, the Boise River winds through cities, towns and farmlands, and that takes a toll on its water. While the river is relatively cold and clear upstream at places like Barber Park, it becomes warmer, carries more sediment, and contains more aquatic plant life as it moves downstream to its mouth near Parma. These changes are caused in part by increased amounts of phosphorus in the river, which cause problems by increasing plant growth. Besides being a nuisance to recreationists, this excess plant matter consumes oxygen that is dissolved in the water when it decays, and too little dissolved oxygen is harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

The Boise River near Barber Park above the City of Boise is relatively cold and clear, versus the Boise River near Parma is warmer, carries more sediment, and has more excess aquatic plant growth.

So where does the excess phosphorus come from? The short answer is: all of us. A little bit of it comes from water and soil runoff from forested lands upstream. Municipal wastewater contains lots of phosphorus, and while much of it is removed during the treatment process, some is still in the water when it’s released back into the river. Fertilizers often contain phosphorus, and soil and water runoff from lawns and fields can carry some of this phosphorus into the river. Some phosphorus also comes from shallow groundwater. This phosphorus may come from leaky septic systems and from the application of both fertilizer and irrigation water that already has a lot of phosphorus in it from upstream sources. After it’s applied to fields, this water and phosphorus can infiltrate into shallow groundwater and eventually makes its way into the river.

Recognizing these impacts, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) established total phosphorus limits for the lower Boise River in 2015 to address water quality issues. The U.S. Geological Survey has worked with DEQ and the Lower Boise Watershed Council to monitor water quality in the Boise River since the 1970s. This partnership brings local stakeholders on the Council, including cities, irrigation districts, and industries, together with local regulators and federal resources to help understand and solve problems here in Idaho.

Most recently, the USGS has been collecting water quality samples six times a year from the Boise River between Star and Middleton, and from near Parma. These samples are analyzed for a variety of constituents, including phosphorus and other nutrients. Partnering with the City of Boise, the USGS also uses an automatic sampler to collect samples every 49 hours from the Boise River near Parma; these samples are analyzed for total phosphorus (phosphorus in all forms). By comparing the phosphorus in these recent samples to previous data, the USGS has recently shown that phosphorus in the Boise River near Parma decreased by about one third (36 percent) over the past two years. From 1987 to 2012, the average annual phosphorus concentration (the mass of phosphorus per a volume of water) was 0.32 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The average total phosphorus concentration from 2015 through 2017 was 0.21 mg/L. So in the past two years, total phosphorus has declined by almost half of the amount needed to achieve the water quality target, which is 0.07 mg/L.  Although the high flows in spring 2017 helped dilute phosphorus in the river, the overall decline was apparent well before these record spring flows.

Monthly average measured phosphorus in the Boise River near Parma is lower than previous phosphorus levels. The difference is biggest during the winter. The difference is smallest during irrigation season (May through October) and storms.

This reduction is good news for the Boise River, and shows that work done throughout the basin to reduce phosphorus inputs is having an impact. Best management practices installed to reduce soil erosion and water runoff are likely making a difference in agricultural inputs. In the meantime, cities throughout the Treasure Valley have been upgrading their wastewater treatment facilities and removing more phosphorus than before. One way to understand the impact of these upgrades is to look at loads. Similar to concentration, a load is the mass of phosphorus but per a set unit of time. In this case, the load refers to the mass of phosphorus that moves through the Boise River near Parma in a day.

From 2012 to 2013, the average annual wastewater phosphorus load from Boise, Meridian, Nampa and Caldwell was about 1387 pounds per day (lb/day). During 2015 to 2017, this load decreased by about 50 percent to 644 pounds per day. During the same time, the total Boise River load near Parma decreased about 30 percent from its previous level, 2398 lb/day, to 1653 lb/day.

The municipal wastewater phosphorus load has decreased by about 50 percent over the past two years. This has helped decrease the total phosphorus load in the Boise River near Parma, but further reductions are needed, particularly during storms and the irrigation season.

However, the biggest improvement comes during the non-irrigation season, when the municipal load represents the greatest proportion of the total phosphorus load in the Boise River near Parma. This shows that although good progress has been made towards meeting the phosphorus target – and improving water quality – there is a lot more progress to be made by all of us.

Fortunately, many irrigators are working to install new water and erosion control structures, municipalities continue to upgrade their facilities, and innovative projects are intercepting and cleaning up phosphorus-laden waters throughout the valley. Continued water quality monitoring in the lower Boise River will track the progress made by these improvements, as fish, recreationists and the river reap the benefits.

Citizen Science! Boise Watershed Watch

by Kati Carberry, BREN Coordinating Team Chair

Hi Fellow Boise River Enthusiasts,

The Boise River Watershed Watch Day is coming up on Saturday September 30th from 10:00-12:00.  Watershed Watch is a great program led by the Boise Watershed where a Team Leader and a group of citizen scientists monitor an assigned surface water site along the Boise River. On the day of the event more than 20 sites from Lucky Peak to Caldwell will be monitored for DO, pH, turbidity, Temp, bacteria, TSS, TP, macroinvertebrates, and invasive species. Watershed Watch is the perfect way to get kids engaged in science.

Figure 1. Watershed Watch volunteers identifying macroinvertebrates

Clean water is essential to support healthy fisheries, wildlife habitat and ecosystem function in addition to drinking, irrigation and recreation. Water quality enhancement is a goal of BREN, and a number of strategies are described in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. Many water quality reports for the lower Boise River can be accessed through our website.

BREN is going to be monitoring two sites this year, one at the Star Bridge and one at the Linder Bridge. If you would like to volunteer as a citizen scientist at a BREN site (Linder Bridge or Star Bridge), please sign up. I really think all of you would enjoy this one day event, and it is a great opportunity for your friends and family to become involved with BREN.

This will be the 10th consecutive year of Watershed Watch and it is amazing to see the amount of historical data that has been collected on the Boise River from this one day annual event. Below is a link to more information and how to register.  Feel free to pass this on to anyone else you think would be interested.

http://bee.cityofboise.org/watershed/get-involved/watershed-watch!/  Register Here

Registering is super easy and quick. Once you are at the site, click on the link to register in the middle of the page. From there you will be asked to fill out a simple registration form. Please make sure to select the Linder Bridge Site in Eagle site # 29, or the Star Rd. Bridge site # 25 (see below for website images).

See you on September 30!

 

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

By Graham Freeman, Idaho DEQ

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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!

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

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
    SHRUBS    
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
    FORBS  
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

 

 

 

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