Boise & Garden City

A creek will return. A bird-study site will improve. Boise’s levy funds go to work

Boise State University’s Intermountain Bird Observatory won more than $440,000 to build bridges and pathways, and re-water a channel of the Boise River, near an education and research center on both sides of the Highway 21 bridge.
Boise State University’s Intermountain Bird Observatory won more than $440,000 to build bridges and pathways, and re-water a channel of the Boise River, near an education and research center on both sides of the Highway 21 bridge.

When Boise voters passed a $10 million Open Space and Clean Water levy in 2015 and re-passed it in 2017, some skeptics wondered if the city would use the money just to buy Foothills land, as it has done with $10 million from a 2001 levy.

That won’t be the case for the first two projects the levy will fund. On Tuesday, the City Council approved spending more than $640,000 on two water-quality initiatives, one affecting the Boise River, the other a tributary.

One project will “daylight,” or uncover, 440 feet of Cottonwood Creek in the eastern end of Julia Davis Park between the Myrtle Street-Broadway Avenue intersection and the Boise River. For almost a century, most of the creek has run through an underground pipe from its origin in Military Reserve to the river, said Sara Arkle, Foothills and open space manager for Boise Parks and Recreation.

The last 440 feet of the creek will be dug up and exposed so that it flows like a natural creek.

The goal of the project is to improve fish habitat and the capacity of the stream and its banks to absorb minerals and contaminants in storm water. The city is contributing $200,000 from the levy’s Open Space and Clean Water account.

Trout Unlimited, a nonprofit conservation group, has been proposing and designing the daylighting of Cottonwood Creek for about a decade, Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway said. The group also won a $100,000 federal grant for the project and secured commitments from design and construction contractors to donate $100,000 worth of work, Holloway said.

cottonwood creek map 1
The arrow on this map points to the stretch of Cottonwood Creek in Julia Davis Park that’s slated to be uncovered, or “daylighted.” Provided by Bonnie Shelton, Boise Parks and Recreation.

The creek will be 3 to 4 feet wide, Holloway said. The project will include landscaping and a few seating areas. Work could start by summer. Completion depends on several variables, such as the availability of contractors.

The other project will shore up banks of the Boise River on both sides of the Highway 21 bridge — next to land a local businessman has proposed donating to the city for a park to be named after his wife. That donation is still expected to take place, Holloway said.

The goal of this project is to reduce erosion of the banks and the amount of sediment falling into the river. A channel also would be re-watered between the east bank and the rest of the river. Boise State University’s Intermountain Bird Observatory, which conducts research and education on a 20-acre site in the same area, requested money for the project.

The project will include footbridges, pathways and wildlife-viewing structures.

The City Council awarded $440,270 for the project. Holloway said the timeline is unknown. The council required that all construction be completed within three years.

Both projects were recommended by a nine-member committee the city established to vet proposals to spend the levy money.

Voters re-passed the two-year levy in 2017 after the city failed to collect the first half because it forgot to tell Ada County to include the assessment on Boise property-tax bills.

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