Trout Unlimited offers tips in the wake of flooding on Idaho's Big Wood River

Keri York/ Big Wood River Project Manager, Trout Unlimited / 208-928-7656

Recent flooding has left its share of impacts on the Big Wood River valley but local experts are advising residents to use natural options such as root wads, and vegetation to stabilize stream banks and assist with flood recovery.

While flooding can be a very stressful event and have serious impacts on public and private property, high stream flows are extremely beneficial to fish and aquatic habitat, said Dan Dauwalter, fisheries scientist for Trout Unlimited. Floods scour out pools, redistribute spawning gravels, and recruit large wood in a natural way that creates fish habitat. We recommend refraining from completely removing large wood from the river due to its benefit to habitat. Instead, we suggest working with large wood that has been left in the floods wake.

Floodwater has receded in most places along the Big Wood River, but there are many Blaine County residents who are considering their options for recovering lost property and streambank. As a mainstem river for this vibrant community, county residents are encouraged to consider what is important to the health of the ecosystem along with property reclamation. In addition to traditional rip-rap to aid in bank stabilization, natural materials such as root wads and stabilizing vegetation can be equally effective and have the added benefit of habitat creation for the river and the fishery.

Maintaining and improving the health of the Big Wood River has been a major priority for the area in the past decade.

Building off of the Big Wood River Geomorphic Assessment that was produced in 2015, Blaine County, local municipalities, conservation groups such as Trout Unlimited, and the public have been considering long-term planning opportunities with the Army Corps of Engineers. The City of Hailey and Wood River Land Trust are also engaging the public in a Hailey Greenway Master Planning Process that will address current and future desired uses including river restoration, floodplain management, and access. The 350-acre Hailey Greenway area includes 1.5 miles of the Big Wood River.

We encourage all residents of Hailey and Blaine County to be engaged, said Keri York, Big Wood River Project Manager for Trout Unlimited. By having local voices at the table we can ensure planning processes that will have a positive effect on the river and its long-term health.

As the community moves forward, keeping a healthy river as the centerpiece of planning and restoration efforts is of benefit to all local residents. The City of Hailey and the Wood River Land Trust are providing informational meetings and seeking public input regarding post-flood river work. The next meeting is August 7 at 7 p.m. at the Community Campus. Blaine County has held several flood recovery meetings and is proceeding with restoration permit applications to state and federal agencies. (Visit the Blaine County website for upcoming meetings.)

How we choose to restore our streambanks and protect private property will affect the health of the Big Wood River and the future of our community. We can apply natural techniques that have been implemented in other large river systems, utilizing large wood for both bank stabilization and the creation of fish habitat, York added.

For references on natural streambank restoration and to learn about local planning efforts that may be occurring in your neighborhood, contact Keri York, Trout Unlimited Big Wood River Project Manager, at 928-7656 or