Three Creeks, Three Devastating Cases of Destruction!
October, 30 2023
, Land Use Code
, Patnerships Matter
THREE Teton Valley Creeks Under Attack!
Teton Valley News Article HERE
Jackson Hole News & Guide Article HERE
EMAIL OUR COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
Teton County Board of County Commissioners carved out time during their meeting on Monday to hold an open discussion about the recent destruction to Darby, Dry, and Teton Creeks. Friends of the Teton River (FTR) and VARD were able to voice our concerns and suggest urgent next steps that included, but were not limited to, a contact list of who’s who for rapid response when destruction is occurring and an emergency ordinance moratorium on any and all development in riparian areas. Next, the County will hold a work session and we’ll keep you posted as we learn more. Listen to the meeting HERE.
Please contact our County Commissioners and tell them you support an EMERGENCY ORDINANCE that protects our Riparian areas, waterways, wetlands, and habitat!
Teton Creek Corridor Destruction
In 2021, California CEO Cameron Rouns purchased one of the last undeveloped (and also non-conservation easement) parcels of land along the Teton Creek Corridor. Last week, Rouns hired an excavation company to remove large swaths of critical vegetation, underbrush, and mature trees within the ordinary high water mark (OHWM) of Teton Creek. Over the course of just one weekend, Rouns had cleared and burned approximately 9 acres of the 18-acre parcel, with large piles of logged cottonwood trees stacked high and smoldering for days. County staff confirmed that Rouns failed to apply for (1) a county grading and erosion control permit, or (2) a County floodplain permit. Teton County staff asked Rouns to cease action on the property.
The Teton Creek Corridor is vital wildlife habitat.
The Teton Creek Corridor Project (TCCP) partners, FTR, TRLT, TVTAP and VARD, with LegacyWorks Group facilitating, have been working collaboratively since 2015 to repair, enhance, and protect the Teton Creek Corridor - leveraging strengths across our respective organizations - extending countless hours and resources - to protect this lifeline to the Teton River. The goal of the TCCP partners has been to maintain and enhance the ecological integrity, and ensure the community’s ability to access and enjoy the section of Teton Creek from Highway 33 upstream to Stateline Road. More specifically:
● Protecting and enhancing the riparian corridor
● Protecting working lands
● Maintaining and improving native plant communities and winter elk habitat
● Enhancing stream flows to maintain year round flows for Yellowstone cutthroat trout
● Restoring degraded sections of stream channel
● Shifting development along the corridor to be more in line with community goals; and
● Establishing a four mile recreational pathway through the area.
The clearing of this vital habitat, followed by days (and days....) of burning and smoldering of the cleared forest, is devastating. Immediate action was needed, and act is what we did! VARD, alongside FTR, and the Teton Creek Flood Control District submitted a complaint to the County. Read it HERE.
Also, we'll never forget the dredging and mass vegetation removal Teton Creek suffered from property owner Lyn Moses’ dredging, which led to significant long-term damage to Teton Creek and abutting properties. It was just downstream of the Rouns property. Moses' dredging cost him a hefty fine and jail time, and is still costing millions in imperative restoration work both upstream and downstream of the damage. Before this recent clearing, the Rouns property was considered to be one of the most stable portions of Teton Creek. It is not presently known what the impacts of this scraping and clearing will be with the next spring run-off. Read the news release from the EPA HERE and the TVN coverage HERE.
Beginning around October 6, 2023 Carl Nagel, a Jackson, WY developer, hired Matkin Excavation to dredge and clear the northern border of his property, which ran right down Darby Creek and floodplain. County staff confirmed that he had not applied for (1) a grading and erosion control permit, or (2) a floodplain permit. County staff issued a letter asking the dredging to stop - HERE. The Idaho Department of Water Resources Issued a Cease and Desist letter - HERE. VARD and FTR lobbied hard for the the U.S. Army Corps to do a site visit.
The end result of this dredging is devastating: a clear-cut swath of creek corridor approximately 30-feet wide and approximately 3,800-feet long located almost entirely within the OHWM. FTR reported that over 100 feet of stream channel was completely disturbed and reshaped, with nearly 3-acres of critical riparian vegetation cleared. Dozens of truckloads of cottonwood trees and vegetation remain piled up on the floodplain, within the OHWM. In total approximately 100 tons of sediment has been disturbed and could potentially wash downstream with the next flood. Even a moderate flood event could completely destabilize this section of Darby Creek, and Highway 33 is located downstream from this dredge site.
VARD requested immediate action. Read our our Complaint and Demand For Remediation of Darby Creek HERE.
There is another piece to this... the area that was cleared on Darby Creek has been confirmed by our local district court to be a part of the Teton Saddleback Vistas Master Plan - which preserved the precious Darby Corridor as unbuildable, dedicated open space. Read the Court Order HERE.
Darby Creek Area of Disturbance: Red Line = Appx. area of distrubance; Green Line = Effective FEMA Floodplain Map, Zone A
The situation on Dry Creek is distinct from the other creeks above. Around the same time that Darby and Teton Creeks were under attack, a large section of Dry Creek was being cleared of riparian vegetation, which shocked abutting property owners. The clearing continued for many days despite outcry from neighbors. The Grand Teton Canal Company issued this letter, (HERE) asserting their right to clear the vegetation as a part of routine system maintenance.
The concerned neighboring property owners have been doing their due diligence and report that the Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) has asked the canal company to stop clearing until things can be sorted out. Neighbors also report that IDWR has opined that the canal company did not have rights to do work on Dry Creek. Further communication by the U.S. Army Corps appears to confirm that the cleared area along Dry Creek consistently appears on USGS, FEMA Floodplains, and National Wetland Inventory maps.
What happens now? The beleaguered property owners are organizing and determining the next steps they can take to protect their land and the beloved Dry Creek corridor.
This issue pushes the boundaries of VARD’s knowledge of canal company laws and how they intersect with IDWR and U.S. Army Corps jurisdiction. Thankfully, our close network of communication with FTR staff, property owners, and state/federal agency staff helps us stay abreast of this issue so we can assist - learning as much as we can and informing our members.
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