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One of the required components in building the Island Park Bridge is a Biological Assessment to confirm whether or not the structure will adversely affect fish in the Salmon River.

The city of Salmon hired the firm of Gibson Hartwell, Ecosystem Research Group (ERG) to prepare the complex document for a sum of $6,662. When the work was undertaken it was under an assumption based on preliminary National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) information that the final verdict would indicate the proposed bridge was not likely to adversely affect the fish however; the ruling was exactly the opposite. The agency said the fish will most likely be adversely affected which made a great many more Biological Assessment details necessary in order to prove no permanent damage will be inflicted. Those details required more time and effort on the part of ERG.

At the June 15 meeting of the Salmon City Council a “scope modification for Island Park Bridge Biological Assessment,” in other words a change order, was presented. City Community Development Director Mary Cerise said the necessary work added another $4,168 to the company’s original $6,662 estimate. She said the Biological Assessment has been completed and turned in for approval to all the federal agencies involved. Because the bridge is to be built in waters containing fish categorized as endangered species the mailing list includes NOAA, the US Army Corps of Engineers, the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Idaho Department of Lands, the Department of Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. Cerise said construction cannot begin without federal agency approvals as well as a Biological Opinion from NOAA. Cerise said that NOAA be the longest wait since that agency has 135 days in which to write its opinion.

The issue at the council meeting was yet another unexpected bill. In its scope modification letter to the city ERG said that several of the drawings provided contained inaccurate representations of the project and stream bed morphology which also added to the time spent. Cerise told council members ERG worked many nights and weekends and did an excellent job getting the additional material ready for submission which has since been sent to all of the agencies.

Councilman Russ Chinske questioned the company’s ‘no adverse effect’ assumption which led to more hours and City Attorney Fred Snook quoted a portion of the original contract which covered additional time spent, if necessary. Chinske recommended the final $4,168 payment should be withheld pending agency approval of the Biological Assessment to which Councilman and retired engineer Jim Baker objected.

Chinske asked what if the agencies reject the Biological Assessment and Cerise said all of the agencies were sent draft copies, have made comments and the recommended changes have already been made. Baker said the work has been done to the best of the city’s ability and he believes the project will go through.

In answer to a question from Councilman Rob Jackson, Cerise said there is no way to guess when the final word will be given because there is no way to predict agency priorities or be able to tell on which desk the paperwork will land.

Baker made a motion to accept the ERG change order pending confirmation an error in the paper work has been corrected. The motion passed unanimously on a roll call vote.

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