Work began this week on the second phase of a mile-long stream restoration project in the Big Wood River where it flows through Bellevue. The $120,000 phase of the project underway this month is part of a $760,000 multi-year project initiated by the Wood River Land Trust to increase biodiversity and reduce damage to property during spring floods by restoring natural river function.
“The main goal is to allow adequate sediment transport, fish passage and irrigation for a water diversion for District 45 canal function,” said Ryan Santo, restoration specialist for the Wood River Land Trust.
Santo said during an interview recorded by the Wood River Land Trust that the river had been channelized over many years due to “riprap wars” that involved property owners on both sides of the river building up river banks to send water away from their property, and onto the opposite bank.
Santo said a concrete dam had also been placed in the river to facilitate irrigation for the canal.
“The dam structure could be removed, modified or buried,” Santo said. “We are trying to figure out options for that. Heavy equipment has been used in the river to destroy habitat. In this case the equipment is being used to enhance the habitat.”
Artificial fill and riprap will be removed along a mile-long stretch of the Big Wood River from Broadford Bridge down to Riverside Estates, allowing the river to connect to its natural floodplain. The fill removal will also decrease potential flooding impacts to nearby residents, Santo said.
The river work is being undertaken through a partnership with the city of Bellevue and Friends of the Howard Preserve, with input from residents. Funding sources for the project also include Trout Unlimited, the Diversion 45 Canal District, Flood Control District No. 9 and private landowners.
Due to the use of heavy equipment, a number of trails will be closed for three weeks. For questions on closures, contact Ryan Santo at 208-788-3947.