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The Big Wood River could get some work later this summer that would push the existing stream channels to the east.

The Bellevue City Council voted Monday to support a plan to alter the existing channels and shore up banks along a one-mile stretch of the Big Wood River south of the Broadford Road bridge.

The $144,000 project is intended to decrease the flooding risk for landowners downstream and improve wildlife habitat by dispersing the water in the river over a wider range of the floodplain.

Ryan Santo, a project coordinator with the Wood River Land Trust, presented the plan Monday. He said the work would include reopening older, naturally occurring but dried-out side channels on the east side of the river for water flows and installing boulders and other obstructions to impede flows in other areas.

“We would be raising the river bed up to improve access to the side channel,” Santo said.

The project, if it is funded and approved, would be undertaken late this summer using $57,000 in grants from the Idaho Water Resource Board and an equal amount from the Big Wood River Flood Control District No. 9. The city is not required to spend money on the project, but Mayor Ned Burns offered as much “manpower” as was available when the time comes.

In addition to the Land Trust, stakeholders in the project include private landowners and Trout Unlimited. The city of Bellevue would serve as the grant applicant since nonprofits are not able to apply for the grant, according to a letter from Santo to the city.

Santo said an “apex jam structure” would be installed on the north end of the project to divert water to the east, with clusters of boulders creating “hardened riffles” in the main channel to the west.

“A big part of this is repairing damage from the 2017 flood,” Flood Control District Commissioner Bryan Dilworth said. “They’re trying to do this without using riprap and hardening [channelizing] the river banks.”

Dilworth represents the southern portion of the flood control taxing district, which manages seven levies on the Big Wood River, from Silver Creek to the North Fork of the Big Wood north of Ketchum.

“Our biggest job is maintaining those levies,” Dilworth said.

The primary goal of the Biota project is to relieve stress on the west bank of the Big Wood River by dispersing floodwaters across the floodplain.

City Attorney Rick Allington expressed concern that any changes in the river be approved by landowners downstream who could be impacted.

Community Development Director Diane Shay said a floodplain development permit would be required before work can begin.

Satisfied that the project would likely move forward, the City Council approved the grant application, which is due by June 19. The Wood River Land Trust will manage the grant development and application.

“This is using public funding for public good,” Councilwoman Kathryn Goldman said.

The council will assess progress on the project, liability concerns and granting procedures at its next meeting on May 25.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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