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The Salmon City Council has agreed to proceed with procuring assistance to complete a required Biological Assessment (BA) related to obtaining a permit for construction of the proposed Island Park Bridge. A motion to proceed specified the cost of requested assistance will not exceed $6,662 and will be taken from the $200,000 already approved for the construction.

The decision came at the council’s April 6 meeting after City Community Project Development Coordinator Mary Cerise explained the need. A BA is an important aspect of requirements under the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). She said she has gone as far as she can on the biological assessment application which is particularly tricky due to the Environmental Species Act (ESA) listing of the fish inhabiting the portion of Salmon River the bridge construction might affect. She said she has completed the mechanical aspects of the assessment and is not comfortable with trying to do the biological components since she is not a fisheries biologist.

An added pressure is the rapid approach of the best window of time to do the actual construction work which is based on such things as funding windows which close in June of 2017 and a no disturbance spawning season that begins in March of 2017. Added to that are construction considerations including river flow rates and levels, weather and ice The best all-around window of opportunity begins September 15. Cerise said it takes approximately 135 days to get the permit applications approved which means the work window is already being pushed therefore, she asked the council for immediate funding approval.

According to her research a complete Biological Assessment generally costs from $15 to $20,000. Cerise said she has checked with companies which have fisheries biologists on staff and are used to doing this type of assessment work. She included local agencies in the search and found all are booked as far as time and work constraints. Of the two commercial companies a firm in Missoula quoted the most reasonable price which was $6,662.

Councilman Jim Bockelman asked if waiting to allocate the money until the construction bids are opened on April 18 would hinder the process and Cerise said it could absolutely jeopardize the permit being processed.

City Finance Director Amy Fealko discussed the financial ramifications as well as the bottom line 135 day time-frame. She said to put the expense in perspective it equates to one percent of the whole potential bridge budget therefore, it is not that big of a deal, “…but it all adds up.”

Councilman Russ Chinske thought a Biological Assessment had already been done. Cerise explained this one is a 404 permit which is related to working in the river. It became necessary because after review by local and Idaho Transportation Department engineers, the initial design drawings were changed to provide more scour protection for the bridge supports.

Councilman Ken Hill made a motion to proceed with securing assistance for completing the Biological Assessment at a cost not to exceed $6,662 and to take the money from the $200,000 already approved for the bridge project. The four councilmen in attendance, Hill, Bockelman, Chinske and Neal James passed the motion unanimously.

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