Friday, March 15, 2013

Rehabilitation plan would harm Silver Creek


By DAVID GLASSCOCK 

 

There have previously been two large rechannelization projects on Silver Creek where landowners have drastically changed its character. Some areas have been narrowed by up to 70 percent, changing water velocity and depth, and negatively affecting the fishing. From my observations, there has been a significant reduction in aquatic insect populations here. Both of these sections had excellent fishing. When something is this fantastic, why should it be modified so drastically? The landowners and their excavation contractor will refer to it as “restoration.”  I have yet to see any evidence that Silver Creek was, in a historical sense, so different as to justify this so-called restoration.

There has been an incredible amount of trust put forward by state agencies and our elected county commissioners to allow landowners along Silver Creek to make such drastic modifications. What draws anglers to Silver Creek are the mayfly hatches and the “match-the-hatch” style of fly fishing. The aquatic insect populations are of the utmost importance to anglers, and are the food base for the trout. Stream modifications jeopardize these insect populations. Earth fill is used to narrow the stream, covering large portions of the stream bed and smothering aquatic insects. 

Now, The Nature Conservancy wants to do major narrowing of Silver Creek upstream of Kilpatrick Bridge. They reason that the stream is too wide and shallow, resulting in sediment deposits that contribute to warmer water temperatures. Their plan is to narrow this section up to the S-bends by at least 60 percent. However, there has been no documented evidence of trout mortality here due to warm water temperatures. 

The float tube areas near Kilpatrick Bridge are highly prized by anglers. This wide body of water can accommodate many fishermen per day. It is one of the most revered sections of Silver Creek, seeing thousands of angler days per season. 

Sediment deposits have collected in this area. I, and many others, have proposed removing the sediment by dredging with a floating barge, which has been successful on upper Stalker Creek and Loving Creek, two Silver Creek tributaries. This could be done over a few years, minimizing harmful effects to the aquatic insects. 

Dredging sediment and removing it insures that it won’t travel downstream. If The Nature Conservancy pursues its plan, upstream sediment will be flushed down and deposited in the next wider section immediately below Kilpatrick Bridge.

The Purdy plan is to build a large island in Kilpatrick Pond. To accomplish this, they propose to dewater this section of Silver Creek by building a dam across its entire width and diverting the stream into an irrigation ditch. This will have catastrophic results for the aquatic insect populations. 

Another problem is public access. At present, anglers can put their float tubes in at Kilpatrick Bridge and float downstream to the irrigation dam. This is a significantly large area to fish and is shallow enough that anglers can keep their feet on the bottom and walk back up to the bridge. If the island is built, it will seriously limit the area of water the public can access. 

Silver Creek is not so broken that it deserves these sorts of massive changes. It’s doing more harm than good! The public is losing access to vast areas of Silver Creek. It’s no longer possible to canoe, then get out and wade-fish. It’s too deep. 

These areas already have wetlands associated with them. They include including extensive bird nesting habitat and waterfowl wintering areas. These are appreciated by duck hunters, bird watchers and anglers. 

If these permits are granted by our county commissioners, the public is going to lose very significant recreational resources. 


David Glasscock is a fly-fishing outfitter licensed to guide at Silver Creek. He co-authored a book titled “Silver Creek: Idaho’s Fly-Fishing Paradise.”

 




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