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.

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

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

2016 BREN Coordinating Team Election

BREN Coordinating Team

BREN Coordinating Team Election, September 19th-25th

Please vote to elect members to the BREN Coordinating Team!

This year we have 6 seats up for reelection. The Coordinating Team is delegated to act on behalf of BREN and is responsible for providing direction to achieve BREN’s vision including setting goals, policies and procedures.

Important dates:
• Voting will occur September 19 through September 25.
• Election results will be announced on September 29.
• Coordinating Team members will take office October 1, 2016 and serve two (2) year terms.

Additional information about the responsibilities and privileges of General Members and the Coordinating Team is available in our Governance & Operations Procedures.

Voting Eligibility:
All BREN Members are eligible to vote. Note: If you were a member on our old website, you are still a member! If you would like to become a member, simply join using the link in the upper right-hand corner of the new BREN website,

Cast your vote starting September 19, click here!

2016 Coordinating Team Nominations

Tamsen Binggeli
I currently serve as the Chairperson of the Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) Coordinating Team and have been involved with BREN for over 5 years. I am passionate about the Boise River and finding opportunities for enhancement through collaborative action. As the Chair, I’ve worked to guide planning efforts, facilitate meetings, perform outreach and work cooperatively with stakeholders. I also helped research and write the Boise River Enhancement Plan. I currently work as an Ecologist for Ecosystem Sciences in downtown Boise. I have a Master’s of Science in Environmental Science from the University of Idaho and have experience working in a variety of ecological systems, with a focus on riverine‐riparian and wetland ecology. I am dedicated to BREN’s mission and am looking forward to working with the BREN Coordinating Team in whatever capacity I can.

Whitney Byrd
I work for the Land Trust of the Treasure Valley, BREN’s fiscal sponsor.  I have been working with BREN for almost 3 years now. I have attended all Coordinating Team meetings and served as note taker and participated as much as I can without voting, since I have not been officially on the coordinating team to date. I have been involved in all of our administrative processes, outreach, and fundraising.  I was involved with the organization of the first Boise River Bash in 2014.  Lately, I have been focusing on updating BREN web and email communications.  My husband and I enjoy living in Boise, and floating, fishing, playing with our dogs, recreating at the play wave, and canoeing in the Boise River.  I have 5 years of experience working in environmental activism and community organizing.  I have a BS in Biology from Virginia Tech and a MS in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana.

Tom “Chel” Chelstrom
BREN Coordinating Team member 2014-2016. Author of “Canoeing the Boise River” and “The Boise River Water Trail”. I support the big picture views of the Boise River Trails Plan and The Boise River Enhancement Plan. My experience representing recreation interests on the Boise River spans more than twenty years and includes long standing functional relationships with local, state and federal agencies and user groups. I support improving sustainable access to the river, portage trails around dams and diversions and walking/bicycling paths along the river. Working together, we can enhance recreation opportunities and fish and wildlife habitat while improving the overall health of the river and adjacent riparian areas.

Megan Dixon
As a member of the BREN Coordinating Team, I could bring to the task a broad familiarity with water issues in the Treasure Valley, particularly in Canyon County, and because my experience as a liaison between different individuals and departments at the College of Idaho, could serve to further support BREN’s outreach efforts. I have worked at the College of Idaho since 2008. I have taught courses in the Environmental Studies Program there since 2011. My work at the College of Idaho over the past two years has included the position of liaison between faculty, student affairs staff, and students. In this role, I have learned a lot about successful communication: different modes work better for different people, and redundancy is key! I am confident that I could help brainstorm ways for BREN to continue the good outreach work it has already undertaken. I have attended several BREN Coordinating Team meetings in order to learn about the important opportunities and issues facing the organization. I look forward to supporting BREN’s work in the future in whatever role I can, but I would be excited to work with the Coordinating Team to continue spreading the message about the need for a healthy Boise River.

Mike Homza, PE
I was initially involved with BREN from its inception, including: BREN’s very first organizing meetings (before BREN even had a name), meeting with Dr. Kustra inviting him to speak at BREN’s 2011 public event, assisting with the public event as well as other BREN events. I have been a “casual” participant in a number of Coordinating Team (CT) meetings, have assisted with fundraising and have taken on other tasks as requested by the CT. I am a river restoration/civil engineer well versed in many aspects of river and habitat planning, design, modeling, permitting and construction. I therefore believe I can contribute to the CT from the technical/practical/regulatory aspects as well. I am a resident of Boise and frequently float, stroll along and bike along the Boise River: I truly believe the Boise River is the lifeblood of the Valley and want to do what I can as a responsible citizen to protect and enhance the river, its water quality and associated habitat. I was also a founding member and President of the Idaho section on the American Water Resources Association (IDAWRA) and understand the roles and responsibilities associated with professional/non-profit organizations such as BREN. I believe my history with BREN, my professional expertise, commitment to the community and passion of rivers in general – and the Boise River in particular – can benefit BREN. I respectfully request that I be considered for a role on the BREN Coordinating Team.

Liz Paul
After many years as a non-profit river advocate, I’m now self-employed as a consultant. My business name is Community, LLC and I provide community organizing services to public, private and non-profit clients. I serve on the Board of the Lower Boise Watershed Council and on the Ada County Environmental Advisory Committee. I have an excellent understanding of the values of the Boise River, the threats the river faces and the opportunities for enhancement. I also know many of the stakeholders. I have experience in working with volunteers and working with diverse groups. I’ve invested much effort into creating BREN, and I would like to help the network figure out how best it can support the enhancement of the river.

To cast your vote now, click here!

City Plan Needs to Protect Habitat

Boise WetlandDear Mr. President and Parks and Recreation Commissioners,

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 connecting people and projects in support of ecological enhancement of the Boise River. Our members represent diverse interests, including agriculture, economic development, municipal governments, irrigation water organizations, recreationists, environmental consultants, professional and citizen scientists, and the public at large. BREN thanks the City and the Commission for the opportunity to comment on the draft Downtown Parks and Public Spaces Plan (DPPS).

Our Coordinating Team has reviewed the draft Plan and offers the following comments:

We support the City of Boise’s proactive efforts to improve and develop downtown parks and public spaces. Making downtown more inviting and using parks and pathways as a cornerstone of livability is an important strategy. The DPPS plan should acknowledge the important values of the Boise River corridor. The Boise River, the Greenbelt corridor and pathways are collective assets that make Boise unique.

Our comments to the Plan are focused in two areas:

  1. Create formalized access points to the Boise River, particularly on the north bank (DPPS pages 9 and 10).
  2. The language of this recommendation is not clear as to whether it references formalized connections to the Greenbelt corridor or creating openings in the riparian area to the Boise River and/or its tributaries. The City of Boise’s Boise River Resource Management & Master Plan (2014) states that its primary objective is to manage recreational opportunities so that there are minimal impacts on natural resources (p. 18). The 2014 Plan notes that unrestricted access to the river creates impacts such as trampled vegetation, accelerated riverbank erosion, compacted soil, and damaged habitat (p. 21). Additional impacts of creating access points include habitat fragmentation and increased noise, disturbance and dislocation of wildlife by humans and dogs. The 2014 Plan calls for an inventory of current access points and the removal and rehabilitation of some trails (p. 27 and 56). This guidance was reinforced by the findings of the Boise River Riparian Corridor Stewardship Plan created by the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) for the City of Boise in 2015. After an exhaustive inventory of vegetative cover types and vegetative condition, the Corps presented a number of recommendations to Boise City Parks and Recreation. To improve the ecological function of the vegetation on City of Boise lands along the Boise River, the Corps’ first recommendation is that “access to major riparian habitat should be limited, and the number of volunteer trails should be reduced.” The Corps also recommends that “unnecessary trails should be closed with signage, barriers, vegetation plantings and fencing.” Therefore, we recommend careful consideration of access points along the Boise River and/or its tributaries.
  1. Allow traditional kiosks along the Boise Greenbelt or other parks for small-scale commercial activity (DPPS page 10).
  2. The City of Boise’s Boise River Resource Management & Master Plan (2014) calls for the need to develop proactive policies to deal with the location and permission to allow concession kiosks near (but not on) the Greenbelt (p. 58); such policies have not yet been implemented. Without proper oversight, kiosks placed along the Greenbelt could lead to safety and congestion, litter, noise, and consequential negative impacts to Boise River habitat and wildlife.

The Corps Plan (2015) found that mature cottonwood habitat has decreased by 20% since 2001 and that its condition is deteriorating (p.25). While not as functional as it could be, the Boise River corridor currently provides habitat for a variety of wildlife species and provides numerous ecosystem services such as water supply and purification, flood attenuation, recreation and aesthetics to all who live here.

BREN members want to improve functionality of the Boise River corridor and continue to enjoy these benefits. We encourage the Commission to recommend changes to the DPPS report so it aligns with existing management plans.

Thank you again for accepting our comments.


Tamsen Binggeli

Chairperson, Boise River Enhancement Network


Literature cited

City of Boise. 2014. Boise River Resources Management & Master Plan. City of Boise Parks and Recreation, ID

U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. 2015. Boise River Riparian Corridor Stewardship Plan: Barber Park to Glenwood Bridge/West Boise Wastewater Treatment Facility. U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Walla Walla District, WA

Vegetation Fails the Grade

Thousands of people enjoy floating on the Boise River or a bike ride or walk along its shady shores.  But just how healthy is the Boise River and its shady shore? An examination of the plant communities along the river is one way to measure river health and sustainability.

We can look at a recent report prepared for the City of Boise by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to find out how healthy the vegetation is. The Boise River Riparian Corridor Stewardship Plan is an inventory of the vegetation cover and ecological condition of the vegetation in a 200-foot setback from the 6,500 cubic feet per second flow line on both sides of the river from Eckert Road to Glenwood Bridge.

The take away from the report is that the vast majority of the vegetation is not providing important ecological services and lacks resilience. The Corps report also includes a plan for management, restoration and sustaining this critical riparian habitat.

Bald Eagle photo: Ken MIracle

Bald Eagle in cottonwood tree. Photo by Ken Miracle.

The importance of healthy vegetation can’t been overstated. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, “the typical, and historic, vegetative community adjacent to the Lower Boise River is black cottonwood forest.” According to a woman whose research has been invaluable to me, wildlife biologist and former Fish and Wildlife Service researcher Signe Sather-Blair, “These forested wetlands perform many functions and provide multiple benefits including: groundwater recharge, groundwater discharge, flood storage, reduced flood peaks, increased flow duration, shoreline anchoring, sediment trapping, nutrient retention and removal, food chain support, habitat for fish and wildlife and active and passive human recreation.”

The Corps identified eleven vegetative cover types found in the Boise River floodplain. Three ecological condition classes were used. In Class 1 the overstory and the understory is dominated by native species, historic vegetation composition exists and the plant community is ecologically stable with high resiliency. Soils and dominant ecological processes are fully functioning and plant communities are self sustaining. Class 2 areas have more non-native species and the plant community has only moderate resilience. In Class 3 communities there has been a major departure from historic vegetation composition and the plant community is ecologically unstable with low resilience.

One of the largest areas of Class 1 cover occurs in the reach just below Eckert Bridge.  Large areas of Class 1 mature and immature cottonwood are found in Barber Park; and in Marianne Williams Park and Harris Ranch on the north side of the river, large areas of Class 1 herbaceous wetland are found – much as a result of private and public wetland restoration projects. These areas are publicly accessible, and I recommend taking a walk to see what healthy habitat looks like. More Class 1 cottonwood forest is found downstream of East Park Center Bridge, especially in the new Golda Harris Nature Preserve on the north side.

Healthy vegetation. Photo: Liz Paul

Healthy vegetation across the river. Photo by Liz Paul

With the exception of a few narrow swaths of Class 1 riverside cottonwoods, all of the vegetation is Class 2 or 2- until the Veterans Memorial Parkway Bridge area. A healthy Class 1 area of mature and immature cottonwood trees is found just upstream from the bridge on the south side and mature riverside cottonwoods are found below the bridge on the north (by the Lander St wastewater treatment plant).

Class 1 mature cottonwood forest is found by Mystic Cove Park in Garden City and across the river near the Willow Lane Athletic Complex.  That’s it for Class 1.

Healthy vegetation near the Lander St wastewater treatment plant. Photo: Liz Paul

Healthy vegetation along the Boise River. Photo by Liz Paul.

The Corps recommends a number of maintenance and restoration actions to improve ecological function. That’ll be the topic of my next blog.