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HFF Comments on Henrys Lake Flats Rezone

HFF attended the City of Island Park Planning and Zoning hearing on March 28th regarding a proposal to annex then rezone a ~70 acre parcel from "rural" to "commercial". HFF's comments during the meeting are below. Comments were limited to 2-3 minutes per speaker.

Hi. I’m Rob Van Kirk, Science and Technology Director for the Henry’s Fork Foundation. Most of you know that we are a nonprofit organization whose mission is to conserve and protect the fisheries of the Henry’s Fork. I am speaking on behalf of the organization, not as an individual.

We oppose the proposed action, which will make more land available for commercial development in Island Park. We are a science-based organization and have generally stayed out of land-use issues for the past 10 years or so, but in this case our scientific data and those of government agencies has compelled us to comment, based on concerns about water supply and water quality.

Water supply in the Henry’s Fork watershed over the past 23 years is 15% lower than it was over the previous 23 years. This is equivalent to one and a half times the combined capacity of Henrys Lake, Island Park Reservoir, and Grassy Lake. We are already seeing fishery declines because of decreased water supply, and it’s not just our organization that thinks water supply is limited. The State of Idaho has recently enacted administrative orders and legislation that greatly limit availability of water for all new and many existing junior water uses, except single-dwelling domestic use, throughout the entire Snake River basin upstream of Swan Falls, which is down near Boise.

Second, our data show that phosphorus concentrations in the Henry’s Fork both upstream and downstream of Island Park Reservoir have doubled in the past 10 years. A recently published USGS study found a steady decline in water quality in Island Park Reservoir over the past 25 years. The two wastewater treatment facilities in Island Park—at Last Chance and Mack’s Inn—are already in need of expansion and upgrade and cannot handle additional waste from new commercial development. Any additional nutrient loading upstream of Island Park Reservoir has a compounded effect because it degrades water quality in the river above the reservoir and in the reservoir, which, in turn, exports poor quality water into the river downstream of the dam. The single biggest concern I hear from long-time anglers is degradation of water quality in the river between Island Park Dam and Pinehaven.

We conclude that the additional burden on water supply and wastewater treatment facilities from expanded commercial development will contribute to decline of fisheries and degradation of all water-related recreation in Island Park.

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