The future arrived like an unwelcome thunderclap in the summer of 2020. Thousands fled cities, seeking respite in the great outdoors. The Wood River Valley experienced endless traffic, skyrocketing rent and real estate, and dangerous pressure on the limited fishing resources of the Wood River and Silver Creek--in the middle of exceptionally warm and dry weather. 2020’s precipitation was 70% of normal. Elevated water temperatures, fish kills, an angler at every bend, every tail out and pleas from The Nature Conservancy for the hordes of fishermen to stop showing up at Silver Creek at the crack of dawn every day of the week.
This tsunami of growth was out of control. Just in the Sun Valley/Ketchum area, larger-scale development mushroomed: the Warm Springs Ranch development, Bluebird, the Main Street development, the Proctor Development, phase two starting at White Cloud, phase two finishing at Thunder Spring, the new hotel at River and Main, and the Bariteau housing project. Not included: everything platted or under construction in Hailey or Bellevue.
One key metric is water. Last year over 1,000 trout were “rescued” from the overheated and drying-up lower Wood River. Silver Creek’s flow actually dropped; the water temperature rose. This year, snowpack is 65% of normal. Given the years if not decades of drought being experienced in Western states, should we continue to build the Wood River Valley dry? Can we trust four municipalities, each with their own philosophical, political and financial differences, with the care and preservation of the Wood River Valley?
The issue is not NIMBYism. The issue is, 30 years from now, could our grandchildren come to this valley and not find wall-to-wall development like a giant Vail? Can we find common ground to preserve that which all cherish in this valley?
Pierce Scranton, Ketchum