Drive north of Boise on ID 55 and you’ll run along the universally loved Payette River. If you are a whitewater river runner, you’ll be familiar with the river put-in/take out at Banks as well as the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD’s) maintenance facility. It’s an iconic junction where the North and South Forks of the Payette join to form the Main Payette and a nexus of innumerable Idaho river adventures. The river corridors at Banks are even eligible for protections under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act because of the outstanding recreation opportunities.
The U.S. Forest Service is proposing to automatically renew the special use permit for the ITD Maintenance Shed without taking a closer look at other alternatives.
ITD’s special use permit from the Forest Service for its maintenance facility has expired. The facility provides a crucial public service by helping maintain this stretch of road, but it’s location next to the river is not ideal.
Instead of automatically renewing this permit for yet another 20 years, we would like to see if there is an arrangement that can better serve the interests of the local community, Boise County, the ITD and the broader public.
We are asking the Forest Service and ITD to take a hard look for a more suitable permanent location, develop a relocation plan for the maintenance facility, and consider ways to improve the site and better protect wild and scenic river values.
The Forest Service has a rare opportunity to make the area even more remarkable and outstanding.
While the Boise Forest Plan contemplates an expanded parking area at the Banks site, we are concerned this could increase traffic congestion across the Forest Service bridge and think there may be better uses for this site. One option is restoring the site with native vegetation, adding a day use picnic area (with much-needed shade trees for folks waiting for shuttles), and creating an interpretive trail describing the history and cultural significance of this area. Any alternative use at the Banks site should ensure that traffic congestion and safety issues at this intersection are not made worse.
The Forest Service’s own Plan even calls for evaluating alternative locations for the ITD facility to see if there is a way to better balance transportation, recreation needs, and Wild and Scenic River Act protections.
TAKE ACTION and speak up. Ask the Forest Service to work with ITD to take a hard look for a new suitable permanent home for the maintenance facility and develop options to enhance the site consistent with wild and scenic river values.
Here are some points to consider in your comments:
- Let the Forest Service know they need to consider other alternatives and develop a relocation plan instead of automatically renewing the ITD’s special use permit for its maintenance facility.
- Describe your favorite recreational experiences at Banks. Tell the Forest Service what the North Fork, South Fork and Main Payette rivers mean to you.
- Think about how you would like the area to be managed in the future if the ITD facility is relocated. What would best protect the outstanding recreation values, wild and scenic river values and cultural resources? Give the Forest Service your recommendations.
- In the event a suitable location for ITD is not available at this time, request that the Forest Service extend the special use permit on an interim basis and implement other improvements as mitigation.
- For NEPA nerds, see additional direction for this area in the Forest Plan that you may want to include in your comments:
- General Standard 0901 Manage the North Fork Payette River and Payette eligible corridors to their assigned Recreational classification standards, and preserve their ORVs (outstandingly remarkable values) and free-flowing status until the rivers undergo a suitability study and the study finds them suitable for designation by Congress, or releases them from further consideration as Wild and Scenic Rivers.
- Objective 0943 Evaluate relocating the State of Idaho maintenance shed to provide additional parking for recreation needs. If the evaluation identifies viable alternatives to the current location, develop a relocation plan.
- Goal 0922 Emphasize river-related recreation opportunities and experiences in the management of recreation resources within the Payette River corridors.
- Objective 0925 Improve river access near Banks by expanding parking areas and improving changing rooms to enhance recreation experiences and increase opportunities.
- Objective 0926 Evaluate Banks Beach area for potential expansion and improvement to enhance river-related recreation opportunities and experiences. Expand existing facilities to accommodate increasing use if possible.
- Objective 0927 Cooperate with the BLM to develop a river corridor management plan to guide management and development of river-related recreation resources.
- Objective 0929 Complete vegetation management plans for Banks River Access, Banks Store and Café, Banks Beach, and high-use dispersed sites.
- Objective 0930 Work with adjacent landowners and partners to develop a management strategy for off trail/road use.