Howard Preserve Big Wood River Bellevue

The Big Wood River, pictured here as it flows through Bellevue's Howard Preserve, was big in the news today, both as it hit low flow rates in Ketchum and became the new home to more than a hundred stranded fish.

Idaho experienced a new record increase in COVID-19 cases statewide today, with the state Department of Health and Welfare reporting 365 new confirmed and probable cases of the virus. That brings the total to 6,117, an increase of almost a thousand cases since Friday. Ninety-two people have died of the virus.

The South Central Public Health District counted two more confirmed and one more probable case of COVID-19 in Blaine County on Tuesday, raising the totals to 523 and 12, respectively. Nine cases are currently being monitored by the district. Twin Falls, Cassia, Jerome and Minidoka counties also saw their infection rate rise overnight.

The big local stories from today have to do with the Big Wood River, which continues to drop to all-time lows through Ketchum. Meanwhile, droughts in the south valley have left thousands of fish without water, but Trout Unlimited is on the case. Plus, a statewide cellphone ban for drivers goes into effect tomorrow. Here are the top stories from Tuesday, June 30.

• The Big Wood River in Ketchum hit its lowest-ever recorded flows for the period between June 8 and June 21. According to Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist Danny Tappa, below-average autumn precipitation, low winter snowfall and a dry spring have all contributed to a poor water supply outlook for this summer. The biggest concern will be for surface water users on Magic Reservoir and further south, he said.

This could have a tremendous impact on local water users, fish and wildlife moving into the summer, Emily Jones writes.

• Beginning tomorrow, it will be illegal for all Idahoans to hold a cellphone while driving, including when stopped at stop signs or traffic lights. Until the end of the year, however, police will just be issuing warnings to offending drivers. Transgressions will accrue fines starting in 2021.

Several local cities already enforce cellphone bans. Those ordinances will be superseded by the state law beginning July 1.

• The local Hemingway chapter of Trout Unlimited led another major rescue operation on Friday, June 26, moving more than a hundred fish from a dry patch just off Pero Road in Bellevue. Drought conditions have left fish stranded all over the south county. Since mid-June, Trout Unlimited has rescued more than a thousand fish from dried-up rivers, relocating them to the Big Wood River.

Our photographer Roland Lane joined Trout Unlimited on Friday. Click here to see a photo gallery of the rescue operation.

• One positive side effect of the stay-at-home order: the statewide reduction of traffic has, in turn, led to a major decrease in roadkill. According to a study by the University of California-Davis’ Road Ecology Center, roadkill dropped 38 percent following lockdown.

• The Barkin’ Basement has temporarily closed its doors after at least one employee was asked to self-isolate. The thrift store, which benefits Mountain Humane, will accept material donations on Thursday, Friday and Saturday this week, and expects to reopen next Monday.

• Hailey’s Fourth of July Art & Antique Fair has been cancelled this year. The fair was supposed to run July 3-5 at Roberta McKercher Park. Mike McKenna, executive director of The Chamber, said the most likely reason for cancellation was due to a difficulty in recruiting enough participating vendors.

For more top local and regional news, pick up a copy of tomorrow's Idaho Mountain Express, or visit at any time.

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