Swimming Big Wood Hailey

Drought conditions may have lowered the water level, but that hasn't stopped locals and visitors cooling off in the Big Wood River.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported 538 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 today. That leaves the state total at 26,133, of which 9,850 have recovered and 246 have died, meaning health officials are monitoring 16,037 active cases. The state reported no new coronavirus-related deaths today.

The state counts a Blaine County resident among today's new cases, raising the local total to 563 confirmed and 15 probable. As of yesterday, the South Central Public Health District was monitoring 15 Blaine County cases. St. Luke's administered 25 coronavirus tests in Blaine County yesterday. Today's testing numbers will not be released until midnight.

The 2021 budget debate continues among local governments, the developer of the Harriman Hotel in Ketchum faces an ultimatum and the Bureau of Land Management seeks public comment on proposed new trails. Here are those and other top stories from Wednesday, Aug. 12.

• Since 2016, visitors to Ketchum entering from the south have been greeted by a large pit, which is supposed to be the site of the proposed Harriman Hotel. As the pit has exhibited few signs of construction progress since then, Ketchum city officials have issued a letter to developer Jack Bariteau warning him that he has until the end of this month to show specific progress on the hotel or else his building permit will be suspended.

Since the original development agreement in 2008, Bariteau has obtained five extensions due to lack of funding, flooding and the Great Recession. COVID-19 may well produce a sixth.

• This year’s severe drought conditions continue. The Silver Creek Preserve has reported high water temperature, historically low flows and, as a result, a considerable increase in physiological stress to its trout. If these conditions persist, The Nature Conservancy may implement rolling closures to fishing, though a representative from the group described closures as a last-resort option.

• The Bureau of Land Management has requested public comment on a plan to add new trails near Hailey and Bellevue in Slaughterhouse Canyon and Quigley Canyon. Most of these trails would allow mountain bikes and e-bikes in addition to hikers and horseback riders. The BLM Shoshone Field Office released a 96-page environmental assessment of the proposal on July 22, addressing potential impacts on wildlife, vegetation and more.

Those who wish to provide public comment can click here to access the environmental assessment. The comment period ends Aug. 21.

• Bellevue has approved a budget of about $3.5 million for fiscal year 2021 after cutting more than half a million dollars from departmental budgets. Though the budget passed, the city council continues to debate a possible salary freeze for city staffers.

• The Ketchum City Council has approved the first reading of the city’s $33.7 million fiscal 2021 budget, having unanimously agreed to fulfill Visit Sun Valley’s request for $110,000 for marketing. This move comes as the council adapted more optimistic estimates for revenue from the city’s local option tax.

Meanwhile, Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw announced details of this year’s Wagon Day’s festival, which will no longer include a Main Street parade of the Big Hitch ore wagons pulled by a 20-mule team. Instead, the wagons will be set out in Festival Meadows on Saturday, Sept. 5. Families are encouraged to bring a picnic and enjoy the wagons, as well as live music, while social distancing outside.

For more top local and regional news, pick up a copy of today’s Idaho Mountain Express or visit mtexpress.com at any time.

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