Slow your roll, bulldozers! Devastating Impacts to Three Local Creeks in Two Weeks
November, 1 2023
, Land Use Code
Read Niki Richards' opinion piece in this weeks papers.
In just two weeks, three creeks in Teton Valley were cleared and dredged - one while we were sleeping. The facts are different in each case, but one thing is clear: vital waterways are suffering devastating impacts.
Teton Creek. In 2021, California CEO Cameron Rouns purchased one of the last undeveloped (and also non-conservation easement) parcels along Teton Creek. Earlier this month an excavation company removed approximately 9 acres of critical vegetation, underbrush, and mature trees within the creek’s ordinary high water mark (OHWM). County staff confirmed that Rouns did not apply for (1) a county grading and erosion control permit or (2) a county floodplain permit. Over the course of just one weekend, the damage was done. Over half of the 18-acre parcel had been cleared and burned, with large piles of logged trees stacked high and smoldering for days and days... Rouns has been asked by Teton County staff to cease action on the property.
The Teton Creek Corridor is vital wildlife habitat. Since 2015, the Teton Creek Corridor Project partners (Friends of the Teton River, Teton Regional Land Trust, Teton Valley Trails and Pathways, and VARD) have been working collaboratively to repair, enhance, and protect the Teton Creek Corridor - to preserve this lifeline to the Teton River. The clearing of this precious waterway, followed by days of burning and smoldering, is devastating.
We all remember the harm Teton Creek suffered decades ago when it was dredged by property owner Lynn Moses, leading to significant long-term damage to the creek and to neighboring properties. That dredging cost Moses a hefty fine and jail time - and is still costing millions in ongoing restoration work both upstream and downstream. We can’t predict what these new impacts will bring with next spring’s run-off.
Darby Creek. Earlier this month, Carl Nagel - a Jackson, WY developer - hired an excavation company to clear the northern border of his property, which ran right down Darby Creek and floodplain. County staff confirmed that, like Rouns, he had not applied for grading or floodplain permits. County staff issued a letter asking Nagel to stop. The Idaho Department of Water Resources issued a cease and desist order. We lobbied hard for the Army Corps to do a site visit - they did.
The end result was devastating: a clear-cut section of creek corridor 30 feet wide and 3,800 feet long. Over 100 feet of stream channel was reported completely disturbed and reshaped - nearly 3 acres of critical riparian vegetation cleared. Dozens of truckloads of trees and vegetation were left piled on the floodplain. With 100 tons of sediment disturbed, even a moderate flood event could completely destabilize Darby Creek. Highway 33 is just downstream.
Dry Creek. Several shocked and devastated landowners have reported that large swaths of riparian vegetation were cleared from their property. The clearing continued for many days despite their objections. The Grand Teton Canal Company issued a letter asserting their right to clear vegetation as a part of system maintenance. However, the property owners disagree and are demanding accountability. The Idaho Department of Water Resources has asked the canal company to stop clearing until things are sorted out.
Our local County Commissioners are listening to the community, planning a work session, and considering emergency ordinances to protect riparian areas, waterways, wetlands, and habitat. When our waterways are dredged and cleared, the harm to property, water quality, wildlife, and fisheries can live on for decades.
We all live downstream.
Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and voice your support.
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