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Discussions related to the proposed Whitewater Kayak Park dominated several segments of the Salmon City Council’s first meeting of 2016.

BriAnne (Westfall) Green representing the Salmon Whitewater Park Association (SWPA) delivered an invitation to a pre-permitting meeting of agencies hosted by the Army Corps of Engineers and scheduled for February 25 from noon to 3:30 PM in the Idaho Fish and Game Office Conference Room. She said this is the all-important meeting with the permitting agencies that will be deciding whether or not to issue permits to build the park. Green said this is the meeting where council members will have the opportunity to ask questions, present thoughts on engineering plans and make comments on the proposed park. She stressed the fact this is the meeting to express city comments on the current plan. After this meeting it will be difficult to incorporate any additional city comments. She said she would be happy to meet with the council prior to the meeting to answer any questions.

Green requested that councilmen who plan on attending the meeting let her know by January 29.

Michelle Tucker urged the council to participate in the February meeting saying that ten agencies with jurisdictions over federal and state waterways will be in attendance which makes the meeting a very rare chance to speak personally with those officials. She said she can’t underscore the importance of this meeting enough.

At the request of Council President Jim Baker the council once again discussed the four points of a letter to the editor written late last year by Evalyn Bennett. The first question was whether or not the council wants a letter of agreement on monthly reports from SWPA. A motion to prepare such a letter passed with one dissenting vote cast by Councilman Ken Hill.

Baker then questioned the “…desire to jointly increase safety and improve recreational opportunities” clause in the development agreement between the city and SWPA. He said the project may in fact increase safety risks.

Hill stated that during high water portions of the season that particular stretch of river provides no means of exit due to steep banks on both sides of the river and is currently rated as a class three or four. He said the Whitewater Park as planned would provide eddies after each feature which would make it possible to get into or out of the river at several places along that stretch.

City Attorney Fred Snook told the council the city has no action in this because the park is not a city project.

A discussion was then held on the word “desire” and whether or not it could lead to the city being held liable. Councilman Russ Chinske reminded the council Phase I, which is the only thing covered in the present agreement, allows the group to apply for the permits after funding for the project is secured. He said after that it goes into Phase II which is yet to be written. Snook added that the Phase I agreement for the Salmon Whitewater Park was for pre-construction engineering and permitting, only.

The last question Baker brought forward was the legality of using Local Option Tax (LOT) monies to fund SWPA events. He said those monies are city funds even if they don’t come from local taxpayers and yet he believes using them for the annual River Fest is in accordance with the LOT Ordinance. The SWPA/City agreement states that the city shall not be responsible for any funding for the park project and some residents think funding the River Fest violates that agreement. Former LOT Commission member Jim Bockelman said while LOT funds are city monies and the decision of whether or not to support Whitewater Park fund raisers in the future will have to be made, according to the LOT Ordinance passed by voters funding events to promote the area is a correct and proper use of the money.

During the public comment portions of the meeting Evalyn Bennett said the long term maintenance of the proposed park has to be considered in Phase I as one of the original goals of the agreement and that the final project design proposal must increase safety.

Craig McCallum said he thinks the spirit of the original agreement has been forgotten. He said what is needed is a culture of safety around this river. He pointed out the number of youngsters who play in the river without life jackets and said the goal of the park is to bring in a culture of safety by way of education about the need for helmets and life jackets as well as an understanding of water interaction.

Lynn Bennett said the three hydrologic structures proposed for the river are where life jackets and helmets are not now being used and will teach kids why they need to be. He said kids should first be taught about river safety. He said the proposed locations of the park structures are critical to the well-being of young water users. He challenged council members to google Whitewater Park drownings. Bennett thanked the council for considering the safety aspects and reminded the members that design is the basis for everything.

Chase Slavin also thanked the council for taking the time to hear both sides of the kayak park proposal.
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