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On September 19, 2012 the Salmon City Council signed a three-year Draft Phase I Development agreement with the Salmon Whitewater Park Association (SWPA).

The Association had proposed building a Kayak Course in the Salmon River adjacent to Island Park. Island Park is owned by the city therefore a joint agreement was necessary in order for the Whitewater Association to apply for US Army Corps of Engineers and Idaho Department of Water Resources permits, as well as any other permits which might be required before any actual construction could begin. Phase I is the pre-construction phase of the proposed project and involves the engineering and permitting only.

The agreement signed in 2012 was for an initial term of three years with an option to renew the agreement for up to three one-year periods. The Salmon Whitewater Park Association has requested its first one-year extension be granted which is what drew many public comments at the council’s September 16 meeting.

City resident Bob Wiederrick led the list of comments. He has written an initiative approved for this November’s ballot which would make it illegal for any entity or group to establish a Whitewater Recreational Park or any improvements related thereto on property owned by the city of Salmon. He stated his concern about the renewal is that he does not wanting Salmon to get stuck with the expense of the park.

Dave Gusky wondered if the renewal had anything to do with the upcoming election and Evalyn Bennett questioned whether the council was exceeding its proper role of government by putting the interests of the Whitewater Park Association above the impacts the project would have on other recreational resources. In her five minutes of comment she questioned why the city had to be a co-applicant on the project permits and doubted that either the Army Corps of Engineers or the US Coast Guard would approve a project which substantially modifies a navigable river, not to mention NOAA Fishers granting stream bed changes to a channel containing the migratory habitat of three endangered and threatened fish species. She also thought no mention of maintenance responsibility was a glaring omission.

Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions Outfitting urged the council to renew the SWPA agreement. As an outfitter she said she sees no conflict with the river use and thinks it would attract more visitors to the area. She also asked the city to consider using its property near the North St. Charles campground for a boat ramp now that there is to be a delay in building an Island Park Bridge. She said that location would provide parking and relieve the bottle neck at the present site. Wright said she is hoping the Fish and Game would approve the site and that it could be done before this year’s mid-October Steelhead season.

Lynn Bennett said putting a structure in a river with such highly variable flow ranges needs to be professionally evaluated in terms of safety to the public.

Amy Tonsmeire urged the council to go forward with the agreement. She has recently visited the Cascade Whitewater Park and found it to be great fun. As an outfitter on the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon River and thinks a kayak park here could be of huge benefit to the future of Salmon.

The council discussion began with a motion by Ken Hill to extend the agreement.

Councilman Jim Bockelman said there should be a clause stating SWPA is responsible for maintenance and he pointed out that the city owns Island Park but the Whitewater Park will be in the river. He asked if the agreement is worded properly. City Attorney Fred Snook said the location description should probably be amended to “the adjacent property.”

Councilman Jim Baker said the agreement under consideration is only for the pre-engineering phase and any park maintenance can be addressed in future agreements,

Snook cited the fourth provision of the agreement as the big one. It reads, “The city will not be responsible for any funding for the project.”

During her remarks Bennett had asked Councilman Russ Chinske to refrain from participating in any discussion or votes on the agreement renewal. It was later determined that due to his no longer being officially associated with the park there is no conflict of interest.

Councilman Rob Jackson said he would feel better if the fourth provision said not responsible for funding ‘or maintenance.’ Chinske said right now there is nothing to maintain so there is presently no need to address maintenance.

Snook confirmed that if the Wiederrick initiative passes it would make it a criminal act for SWPA to build on city property. Baker said it wouldn’t put an end to the park since the association could choose to access the river from private property.

Bockelman maintained an independent professional analysis of the project would go a long way to ease questions of safety.

Baker did not think extending the agreement would be a problem since it doesn’t change anything legally from where it stands now.

The council vote on Hill’s motion to grant the one-year extension on the agreement passed unanimously.

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