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AUGUST 18, 2004

Idaho Statesman (Boise, ID) - Staff

Page: 06, Section: Editorial

IEF Board Member Chris Meyer introduces Mayor Dave Bieter

at the first Boise River Conference, August, 2004.

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 Sunday.

"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.

Idaho Environmental Forum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

Email IEF:

Idaho Environmental Forum

P.O. Box 1683

Boise, ID 83701

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