Could Boise River open for float season soon?

Can we float the Boise River soon?

BOISE -- With nearly triple-digit temperatures on the way, many of you are itching to throw your tubes or rafts in the Boise River.

Unfortunately, Ada County officials say it's still too dangerous right now. But, that's expected to change soon!

If everything goes as expected, we might be able to float the Boise River and start renting tubes and rafts next weekend. Ada County Parks and Waterways Director Scott Koberg says he doesn't want to count on it quite yet until two more things happen: lower flows and hazardous debris removed from the river at those flows.

While the river flowing much slower and safer than it has been in recent months, it is not suitable for floaters and rafters quite yet.

"We still have 1,800 [cubic feet per second] going down the river, that's swift water," Ada County engineer, Angela Gilman, said.

Ada County Parks and Waterways says the river needs to drop down to about 1,500 cubic feet per second or less to be opened up for floating season.

Water managers say they expect to reduce flows around the middle of next week.

"We should be down around 900, 1,000 cfs by the end of next week," Bureau of Reclamation engineer Brian Sauer told KTVB.

Part of the reason the flows are still abnormally high is due to what's called flow augmentation: From the Boise River reservoir system, the Bureau of Reclamation is required through a tribal settlement to push out a minimum of 427,000 acre-feet of water to help with salmon migration downstream.

"We release that every year but because of a long run-off season, it's pushed out later," Sauer added. "When that's over with then we'll see the river get dropped down to more normal levels." 

But there are other factors that have to be weighed in order to kick off float season.

The Boise Fire Department has been working for weeks to clear the tremendous amount of debris in the river corridor; they are removing things like chunks of wood, fallen trees, root balls, and other hazards between the put-in at Barber Park and the take-out at Ann Morrison.

"We've gotten most of those major hazards out of the way. The hazards that we can mitigate as a dive team, we've been able to get rid of those hazards," Boise Fire Department Dive Team Leader Jerrod Wong said.

Dangerous debris has to be removed before the river is considered safe for floating, and that removal must continue as the flows decrease.

"It's just too high, so until we can get that water down to a floatable level they can't really do a good assessment, a final OK," Gilman said.

If that happens by the end of next week, the river could be open for floating season very soon after.

"We're hoping to be able to respond pretty quickly once those flows decrease and we get the hazards removed," Koberg added. "Best case scenario - it's possible."

When you do get out there and hit the river, remember: Eroded, unstable riverbanks pose a major safety concern, as do exposed tree roots and large rocks. Gilman says river banks are in the worst condition she has ever seen.

"There are still hazards on the river. It's a river and a natural body of water, so it's always going to have some measure of not being totally safe. I think people need to remember that when they're floating the river that they need to always pay attention and look ahead as to what's coming down the river and where they need to be in the river, and not just think that they're in a swimming pool or a water park," Wong said. "There's always going to be dangers in the river."

"It's just going to be harder to navigate getting in and out of the water unless you're right in one of the nice places to get in and out, like at bridges and stuff like that," Gilman added.

Ada County officials tell KTVB the city of Boise is working to make Ann Morrison good to go for people who end their floating trip there. The sandy take-out beach is in good shape, but across the Greenbelt the grass was saturated for an extended period of time and is still muddy. Officials tell us the city is planning to create a sand path for people to walk on so they aren't trampling the grass that the city is trying to restore.

Float season and raft and tube rentals will be starting much later than normal this year. Based on all the data they have from the last 35 years, the Boise River has not been this high - 1,800 cubic feet per second - this late in the summer.
 

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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