BREN Assembles Collaborative Teams for Multi-Benefit Enhancement Projects

wood duckThe Boise River will have better habitat for fish and wildlife and cleaner water and more community members, including refugees, will participate in stewardship activities if funding is awarded to two BREN-facilitated collaborative enhancement projects.

Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project

BREN partnered with the Ted Trueblood Chapter of Trout Unlimited, City of Boise, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Boise Valley Fly Fishers, Ada County Highway District, Intermountain Bird Observatory, and Land Trust of the Treasure Valley to apply for Phase II funding from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Cooperative Watershed Management Program for the Cottonwood Creek Daylighting Project. The creek now flows through a buried flume underneath Julia Davis Park before discharging to the river.

Cottonwood Creek flume

Cottonwood Creek

The Boise River Enhancement Plan identifies channel confinement and simplification as the #1 issue impairing geomorphology and fisheries habitat in the Boise River and recommends daylighting tributaries to improve habitat complexity. This exciting project would create an open stream channel through the park and improve the confluence with the river to allow for fish passage.  The daylighted creek will support salmonid spawning and rearing habitat and create new wetland and riparian habitat that supports wildlife and improves water quality.

The project includes a robust engagement, education and outreach component with many opportunities for volunteers to participate.  Knowledge transfer and inspiration will support similar collaborative efforts throughout the watershed. Awards will be announced in May.

Hyatt Hidden Lakes Multicultural Habitat Project

Hyatt Hidden Lakes

Hyatt Hidden Lakes

BREN teamed up with many partners to apply for funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Federation for the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Multicultural Habitat Project. The project will engage refugees from many nations and traditional conservation stewards in transforming weed-dominated uplands at the City of Boise’s Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve into healthy habitat for passerine birds and non-game animals.  The Boise River Enhancement Plan identifies invasive plants as a primary issue affecting habitat function and value, and the removal of invasive plants and planting of native vegetation is a top recommendation.

Under the leadership of BREN and the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, the collaborative project will engage existing and new volunteers, including refugees who live nearby, to remove weeds and plant native trees, shrubs and grasses on 12 acres. Volunteers will collect local seeds and grow some of the plants for the project, greatly increasing plant survival. Partners will provide on-and-off site educational programs and host field trips and work days. BREN will share stories and photos of the project to increase support for Boise River enhancement.

Partners are City of Boise, Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, Golden Eagle Audubon Society, Idaho Weed Awareness Campaign, Partners for Clean Water, The Wetlands Group, Boise State University, Idaho Office of Refugees, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Awards will be announced in July.

BREN Helps Local Stakeholders Collaborate

In 2011, lower Boise River stakeholders agreed that increased cooperation, communication and networking was needed to advance ecological enhancement of the river.  The Boise River Enhancement Network was founded to provide those essential connecting services; to serve stakeholders as a “backbone” organization whose staff or volunteers plan, manage, and support enhancement work. BREN facilitated development of the Boise River Enhancement Plan in 2014/2015, maintains a website, Facebook page and email list to support communication, hosts numerous educational events each year, engages members and volunteers in reviewing, designing and implementing enhancement projects and assembles collaborative teams to pursue funding for projects like these that align with the Enhancement Plan. Please let us know how BREN can support your enhancement project. 


Aquatic Habitat Project Completed

The Ada County Environmental Advisory Board’s aquatic habitat enhancement project in the Boise River near Barber Park and the Eckert Bridge was completed in early December. Boise River Enhancement Network members were a driving force to advance this first-of-its-kind project. The project addresses the lack of instream cover, habitat complexity and low-velocity resting areas identified in BREN’s Boise River Enhancement Plan. This outstanding collaborative project was led by Scott Koberg, Ada County Parks and Waterways Director and Joe Kozfkay, Regional Fisheries Manager Idaho Fish and Game with support from the Board, Harris Ranch, City of Boise, and others.


Above left – Project Manager Joe Kozfkay

Above – Selena, Kyle, Kate and Benny

Right – Christy and Tamsen


The $45,000 project included two strategies designed by Idaho Fish and Game to improve aquatic habitat by increasing channel complexity as well as providing more cover and current breaks; engineered log structures and boulders. The log structures, two on the north bank and one on the south, are partially buried in the riverbanks and anchored to the river bottom with log pilings. The boulders were carefully placed to improve channel dynamics.


Three vertical logs were pounded into the river bed to anchor the structure. Logs with root wads were buried into the bank and bolted and cabled to the anchors. A pool was excavated for the root wads. Smaller log were built into the structure and cabled in place. The anchors were trimmed to ground level, protective rocks were placed and planting mix was placed on top. Native plants will be planted in the early spring.



South bank – Good view of the large coffer dam installed to protect water quality during construction. Logs were sourced from the Broadway Bridge project and other local projects. The excavated pool provides more habitat around the wood. Rocks are placed upstream to divert flow that could stress the structure and fill in the pool. During higher flows the structures will be under water. The structures are very dense with wood.



Boulders were donated and placed up and downstream of Eckert Bridge.  The boulders were placed singly and in clusters.  They provide resting places, cover and current breaks.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game generously provided permitting, engineering and project management services necessary to implement this project. The project was funded by Ada County and EGP-NA, who operates Barber Dam and is a co-licensee with Ada County on the FERC license to generate power at the dam.

Thanks to Scott Koberg, Kate McGwire and Liz Paul for providing these photos.

BREN Comments on Ann Morrison Park Master Plan


November 21, 2016

Dear Tom Governale,

I am writing on behalf of the Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN.) BREN is a local network of over 200 members whose primary goal is to promote the ecological enhancement of the Boise River. BREN appreciates the opportunity to comment on the draft Ann Morrison Park Master Plan. We support the overall vision presented by the City of Boise to improve the park layout to make it more user-friendly and provide exciting new amenities.

We are happy to see numerous improvements to the park that will enhance habitat, including:

  • Removal of turf to make a wooded nature trail
  • Creation of wetland and riparian habitat along and near the existing pond
  • Enhancement of riparian habitat along sections of the river
  • Creation of a milkweed/pollinators garden
  • Enhancement of habitat along waterways within the park
  • Addition of a ramp accessible for trailered non-motorized boats
  • Improved water quality through a new stormwater management system.

Provided below are specific recommendations BREN requests the City consider:

  1. Protect riparian habitat along the river corridor. The river currently supports a large canopy of black cottonwoods along stretches of Ann Morrison Park. We support current plans to enhance this critical habitat. However, current plans will also result in the removal of riparian vegetation to make room for several beaches, a boardwalk, a boat launch, and river viewpoints. When possible, we recommend the City place these amenities in areas of existing access points to minimize removal of trees and encroachment of habitat. We also recommend the City consider scaling back on some of these amenities to avoid impacts to critical habitat.
  2. Actively manage recreation along the river. Current plans will attract more people to the River corridor. We recommend the City clearly mark formal access points and use passive controls (i.e. boulders, vegetation) or active controls (i.e. fencing) to direct users away from accessing the river corridor outside of approved access areas. The installment of beaches along the river and other modifications (such as the creation of a side channel) comes with risk of future channel instability. The City should invest in modeling and design services before any of these features are implemented. The City should also be prepared to invest in ongoing maintenance of the beach/beaches, if implemented, as erosion will likely be an issue.

Again, we appreciate the opportunity to provide input to the draft Master Plan layout for Ann Morrison Park.

Tamsen Binggeli
BREN Coordinating Team

Road Projects Benefit the Boise River

If you travel on State Street or Capitol Blvd. or frequent Traders Joes, Boise Brewery or other businesses on Broad Street, it’s been a season of lane closures, traffic delays and annoying inconvenience. You can take heart in your suffering – the Boise River will benefit from new stormwater management practices installed as part of these road projects.

Stormwater Pollutes the Boise River
stormwater discharge

Americana St. stormwater discharge. Photo Liz Paul

Stormwater is rain or snowmelt that flows off impervious surfaces like roads, parking lots, roofs and driveways and carries pollutants into the Boise River, including sediment, bacteria, nutrients, oil, grease, and heavy metals. The pollution can cause public health problems, promote growth of slimy algae, stress or kill bugs and fish, and generally gross river users out. For nearly a century, stormwater was piped to the Boise River, and while new discharges are prohibited, the old plumbing is still in use and polluted stormwater from older roads and neighborhoods still rushes to the river when it rains.

New Road Projects Capture Stormwater

There will be less polluted stormwater flowing into the Boise River this winter thanks to the installation of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) by the Ada County Highway District (ACHD) and its partners. Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other techniques that allow natural storage, use and infiltration of stormwater in urban areas. Practices include biorentention ponds and swales, permeable pavers and concrete, planter boxes, rain gardens and green roofs.

Pedestrian improvement projects on State Street between Glenwood and Collister and between Willow Lane and Veterans Memorial Parkway include green stormwater infrastructure. Curbs, gutters, and sidewalks have been added, but instead of installing stormwater pipes to carry the water away, the runoff from State Street is directed via notches cut in the curb (curb cuts) to sandy areas where the stormwater soaks in. The sandy areas are two to three feet in depth and the sand removes sediment from the stormwater as it soaks into the ground.

roadside sand filters

Curb cuts and retention area on State St. Photo Liz Paul

Partnering for a Stormwater First

ACHD and Boise Parks and Recreation teamed up to install green stormwater infrastructure during construction of the Royal Blvd. extension on Capitol Street just south of the river.  Stormwater flows off the new roadway and parts of 9th St. and Capitol Blvd. into drop inlets in the gutters where it’s piped into three bioretention planter basins. The basins are 6 1/2′ wide and 4’deep. The two on the south are 25’long and the one on the north is 150′ long. It’s a first-of-its-kind project that will use a custom Bioretention Soil Mix and plants specially selected by ACHD to survive periodic floods of polluted stormwater. Species include maiden grass, hyssop, cone flowers, black-eyed susan and perennial grasses.

bioretention planter

Stormwater bioretention planter on Royal Blvd.

Cooperation Benefits the Boise River and the Economy

Stormwater management requirements for new development and major redevelopment in dense urban areas like downtown Boise can drive development to city edges and fuel sprawl. Thanks to a groundbreaking agreement between Boise and ACHD, developers will find it much easier to meet requirements and less polluted stormwater will discharge to the Boise River.

The new coooperative stormwater paradigm is playing out on Broad St. between 2nd St and Capitol Blvd. where ACHD, Boise and Capital City Development Corporation (CCDC) have reached agreement on installation and maintenance of stormwater facilities in the public right-of-way.

Broad St torn upTo you it just looks like a mess, but the carefully engineered infrastructure being built below the street and sidewalks is a radical departure that will enhance the Boise River.


Broad St. will be crowned to direct flow to permeable pavers in the parking lanes and to pocket bio-swales and infiltration planters. Stormwater from private property will discharge via roof drains to trees planted in special suspended pavement systems (Silva Cells) along the sidewalk. Capacity is being created to serve existing buildings without onsite retention and future development. This is known as “green turnkey” and will allow new developers to satisfy stormwater management regulations automatically.

The delays and detours are a small price to pay for a cleaner Boise River.

Aquatic Habitat Enhancement Project Gets Underway

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                      Contact: Kate McGwire
November 15, 2016                                                                                    Public Information Officer

Ada County Begins Project to Improve Boise River Fish Habitat

The Ada County Environmental Advisory Board’s project to improve fish habitat in a stretch of the Boise River near Barber Park and the Eckert Bridge gets underway this week.

The $45,000 project will place engineered log structures and boulder clusters in the river that will improve fish habitat by increasing channel complexity as well as providing more cover and current breaks. The log structures will be partially buried in the riverbanks and anchored to the river bottom with log pilings. The riverbanks will be replanted with native willow species following construction using volunteer laborers. The project is expected to be complete by mid-December. During construction citizens will not have access to the river from the Barber Park Boat Ramp upstream to the Eckert Bridge and along banks and nearby trails while equipment is operating.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game generously provided permitting, engineering and project management services necessary to implement this project.

According to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, “this stretch of the Boise River is one of the finest urban trout rivers in the country. Wild trout and other fish species are abundant.” Enhancing fish habitat at this site was the first project the Ada County Environmental Advisory Board took on to enhance the Boise River.

“The County is so pleased to see the hard work and dedication of this group come to fruition with a project that will not only benefit the fish habitat, but also those who enjoy the Boise River and what it offers our citizens,” said Ada County Commissioner Dave Case.

The Ada County Environmental Advisory Board was formed in 2015 after a power outage at Barber Dam reduced river flows for a short time earlier this year. The Board is made up of staff from Ada County, the Boise River Enhancement Network, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Trout Unlimited, The Freshwater Trust and Fulcrum/Enel Green Power North America (EGP-NA).

The project was funded by Ada County and EGP-NA, who operates Barber Dam and is a co-licensee with Ada County on the FERC license to generate power at the dam.

“As a company, we truly believe that community activities provide an excellent opportunity to engage and strengthen relationships among local stakeholders,” said Larry James, EGP-NA Regional Hydro Operations Manager.

For a digital copy of this release, please visit


Boise Hires Restoration Specialist

The City of Boise hired me on September 1, 2016 in a newly created Parks and Recreation position, Foothills Restoration Specialist. While a large portion of my position includes foothills rehabilitation and restoration, 25% of my time will be spent working on improving riparian habitat along the Boise River and associated waterways.

The City of Boise developed of an updated version of The Boise River Resource and Management and Master Plan in 2013, and the plan was adopted by City Council in December 2014. This document addresses natural resource and identifies a need for an invasive species management plan along the river corridor. Many invasive species are problematic along the river, but some more so than others.

invasive plant

Boise Parks and Recreation is committed to implementing an active management strategy to reduce invasive species, but seeks feedback from experts and concerned citizens regarding prioritization of which species require removal and management first. We are also interested in collaborating with BREN and other special interest groups to determine priority areas for management and eradication trials.

I hope to meet you at the Invasive Species Workshop co-sponsored by BREN and City of Boise on November 17 from 11:45 am to 1:00 pm at the Boise Depot.

Martha Brabec

Foothills Restoration Specialist
Department of Parks and Recreation

Phone #  208.493.2535
E-Mail –

Reclamation to Offer Enhancement Funding

The Boise River Enhancement Network received a $100,000 Cooperative Watershed Management Program grant from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation in 2013. With funding from the grant and thousands of dollars of in-kind matching support,  BREN accomplished the following tasks.

1) Cooperatively developed a structure and operating process for BREN that defines participation, establishes roles and shares responsibilities and created an organizational sustainability plan.

2) Planed and conducted outreach that increased BREN’s effectiveness by building and diversifying participation.

3) Improved and expanded BREN’s communication services including publication of a monthly online newsletter.

4) Worked with stakeholders to assemble information about critical watershed issues, identify and prioritize enhancement needs and project concepts and use that information to create the Boise River Enhancement Plan published in October 2015.

Reclamation has announced there will be Phase II funding available in 2017 to support the work of multi-stakeholder groups like BREN that have adopted watershed enhancement plans. The funds will support local watershed groups in implementing collaborative solutions to water management issues. Reclamation is currently accepting comments on the draft criteria and eligible project types for the Phase II funding.

BREN will host meetings in the Treasure Valley to discuss ideas and identify partners interested in applying for funding for a project that implements recommendations of the Boise River Enhancement Plan.  Reclamation will provide 50% of the funding and local partners will provide 50%.

Boise River Plan

Instream Habitat Project Approved

Boise River

A new instream habitat project is set to be implemented this November in the mainstem Boise River – the first such project in decades and a top recommendation in the Boise River Enhancement Plan. The Boise River lacks roughness elements, such as rock and large wood, that provide habitat diversity, cover, and velocity breaks for fish. And like many sections along the Boise River, the project location site (pictured above) is wide and shallow. It’s great for osprey and eagles for fishing, but not so great for fish looking for a place to hide! The new project involves the installation of engineered rock and wood features within the main channel immediately downstream of Eckert Bridge but upstream of Barber Park put-in for floaters.

Because the project is being installed within the main channel, the design had to demonstrate that it would not increase flood risk, interfere with irrigation diversion or pose a safety threat to recreationists. In addition to large boulders, the design will include three sets of engineered log jams that will be submerged and anchored into the banks of the river. The logs will be placed so that they remain submerged year-round, providing critical habitat for fish during the winter when cover is scarce.

IDFG Instream Design

Post project construction, several areas along the banks will need to be revegetated with native plants, shrubs and trees. This is the perfect opportunity for a volunteer riparian enhancement project – keep a look out for an upcoming announcement from BREN!

BREN, in partnership with numerous stakeholder groups, advised on the type, design and location of the enhancement project. BREN hosted a site visit and project review for stakeholders in August 2016 and will organize the volunteer riparian enhancement opportunity. The instream habitat project is being funded by Ada County and Enel Green Power, and is being designed and implemented by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Boise River Stakeholders




The Importance of River Access

Thursday, September 29 marks a notable event for Boise River recreationists. At 10:30 AM, Boise Parks and Recreation dedicates the new Willow Lane boat ramp. The new ramp is at the Willow Lane Athletic Complex, off State Street. The ramp is well designed to allow non-motorized, trailered boats- drift boats, dorys and large rafts- access to the river. This new access also provides access for canoes, kayaks and stand up paddleboards; wading fishers, dog stick throwers, lunch time gazers and sunset hand-holders. It’s an important emergency access for police, fire, rescue and flood control. There is designated parking for trailers, and restrooms are nearby. What a great amenity for our community!

This river access has been a long time coming.  In 1999, Boise convened a committee of citizens and agencies to develop the Boise River Resource Management Plan. The process was repeated, and the plan updated, in 2014. I had the honor of serving on both committees, and am proud of the work we did and the completed plan. There is evidence of the plan’s results all over the city. The surf wave at the River Recreation Park is the most visible. There are also many improvements to riparian habitat, emergency access, floater access at Ann Morrison Park, signage and portage trails.

One of the more challenging components of the plan has been providing access for trailered, non-motorized boats. The fishing community, particularly the Boise Valley Fly Fishers, have worked diligently towards this goal. They deserve kudos and high-fives. The Willow Lane boat ramp is a big step toward improved fishing access on the river.

For now, the take-out is at Garden City’s Westmoreland Park. This is an unimproved access, but boat trailer pros should have no problem getting a drift rig in and out of the river here. Hopefully Garden City and the river recreation community can work together to improve this access in the future.

There are many opportunities to better connect our communities to the river. Star is considering a ramp. Eagle is updating their master plan, and would do well to take on this issue. Eagle has over a dozen unimproved accesses in the North and South Channels of the Boise River, but no improved, sustainable access. The State is starting to move forward on updating Eagle Island State Park. It’s past time to implement the 2006 Eagle Island State Park Planning Committee’s recommendations and connect the park to the river. It’s hard to believe, but Eagle Island State Park, surrounded by the river, has little public access to the river.

One concern looms large for our rapidly urbanizing river. Boise has an ordinance prohibiting motorized recreation on the river. Ada County, Garden City, Eagle and Star do not. City and county codes should be updated to keep the Boise River non-motorized.  Nothing against motorboats- I have spent hundreds of days fishing and cruising in them. There’s a place for everything, and our urban river is better left quiet.

Chel is the author of the Boise River Water Trail a mile-by-mile guide to floating the Boise River from Lucky Peak Dam to the Snake River.

Chel in canoe

Soil Health Improves Water Quality

Thanks to the Canyon and Owyhee Conservation Districts for hosting a fun and informative tour on Sept. 22, 2016.  Meeting land owners who are implementing soil health and water quality BMPs, seeing what they doing and engaging in discussion is a fabulous way to learn.  Kudos to the staff of the Natural Resource Conservation Service, the Idaho Soil and Water Conservation Commission, and the Canyon and Owyhee Conservation Districts along with the landowners for caring for our land and water.

  people on tour   people   Josie and Jessica

The tour started at the NRCS office in Marsing on the banks of the Snake River and then we carpooled to Jason Miller and Brad McIntyre’s farms.  Participants included state and federal resource specialists, Conservation District Supervisors and staff, and other stakeholders.

GrahamGraham Freeman of Idaho DEQ checks out the cover crop on Jason Miller’s field. Jason planted this cover crop in June after harvesting winter wheat. It’s a mix of plants that cows love including turnips, daikon radishes, and teff. Jason will let the cows loose soon where they are expected to put on the pounds and leave natural fertilizer behind. The plants build organic matter in the soil and prevent dust and mud from leaving the field.

Robin    Tate

Robin Hadeler of the Canyon Soil Conservation District makes sure we aren’t zapped and Tate Walters, the Owyhee District Conservationist, NRCS, explains the cover crop.

group   Joan

Ada Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor Joan Cloonan, above right, meets the free range chickens.

BradBrad McIntyre, left, explains how he raised 300 chickens, built a portable coop and keeps the birds safe from predators, all so they can spread out cow manure and eat fly eggs. Brad’s cows graze on cover crops and he moves them regularly to give the plants a chance to regrow. The cows are healthier with fewer flies but more chickens would be better. Brad says he won’t buy chicks next time.

tractor and chickens