Dave Bieter put the mayor´s bully pulpit to good use the other day.
He made a strong pledge to protect one of the city´s most valuable resources,
the Boise River. Boiseans should hold him to his word.
Bieter promised to speak out about potential threats to the river, within or
beyond city limits -- a posture that could put Boise City Hall at odds with
developers and leaders in outlying communities. Bieter also promised to look
for a better way to keep the river safe and family-friendly, saying city-county
law enforcement is "just not working."
"The Boise River doesn´t belong exclusively to anyone," Bieter
told Idaho Environmental Forum members
Friday. "We must work hard to ensure that no single interest excludes the
others, (so) that the river remains a public resource, in the broadest and most
inclusive sense of the term."
In the months ahead, we´ll expect to see follow-up:
Bieter set the tone Friday when he questioned a proposed open pit mine near the
Middle Fork of the Boise River, which would use cyanide solutions to recover
some 500,000 ounces of gold. Bieter stopped short of opposing the mine, but
give him credit for speaking up. Bieter has been right to sound the alarm
against development sprawl beyond city limits -- projects that could affect
traffic and air quality in town -- and he´s right to worry about what happens
upstream of Boise.
This figures to be a sensitive debate. The mine promises 260 jobs in the small
town of Atlanta. The company says its mine will not release pollutants into the
Boise River. "(The Greenbelt is) a big feature of Boise that we´re all
aware of and enjoy ourselves," said Doug Glaspey , Atlanta Gold Corp.´s
Boise-based project manager. It´s fair for Bieter to withhold judgment, but
it´s crucial for local officials to stay on top of this proposal.
Before shoving off at Barber Park -- the crowded jumping-off point during
floating season -- Bieter promised to take a "hard look" at river law
enforcement. Ada County runs Barber Park, while city officers regulate popular
take-out spots such as Ann Morrison Park. Bieter says the arrangement isn´t
adequate for the 5,000 or so floaters who hit the river on a Saturday or
"This stretch of river is the most heavily used recreational water in the
state in terms of sheer numbers of people," Bieter said. "But it will
be ruined unless we can preserve safety, sanitation and civility."
Bieter didn´t offer alternatives, saying the parks and recreation board and
staff will look at the issue. But as we´ve said before, litter, rowdiness or
drunkenness can spoil the river experience. If Bieter can come up with a cure
for this enforcement headache, we´re eager to hear it.
The river isn´t the only Boise asset needing attention.
The city needs branch libraries. Some neighborhoods are showing signs of
decline and disinvestment. The river has to be one of many high priorities.
But for Bieter -- a native who swam and tubed the river as a youth -- this
priority strikes close to the heart. "The Boise River has been as much a
part of my life as my school, my church and my family." He has spoken
strongly on the river´s behalf; he´ll have plenty of chances in his term to act
on its behalf.