Posts tagged: Lake Lowell
Canyon County commissioners now say they won't help enforce new on-water regulations that might be enacted by federal authorities on Lake Lowell at the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and won't abide by federal rules until federal agencies prove the federal government has jurisdiction over the irrigation water that fills the lake. Click below for a full report from the Idaho Statesman and the Associated Press.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March released a new draft plan for proposed changes at the refuge that includes significant alterations to a 2011 draft plan, as the agency attempts to balance its responsibility of managing a wildlife refuge with the recreational desires of local residents. The new plan eliminates many proposed no-wake zones by attempting to preserve bird populations by closing small portions of the lake where the birds gather for part of the year. Those closures would be based on identifying areas where eagle, osprey, heron and grebe gather.
The county posted on its website a petition that area residents can sign as the federal agency takes comments heading toward a final decision.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, on behalf of the State of Idaho, has submitted comments to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the state's “strong opposition” to the proposed new management plan for the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which would restrict some longtime recreational uses, from powerboating to kitesailing. “Although it is now a wildlife refuge, wildlife and recreation have co-existed with irrigation throughout the life of the Deer Flat project,” Otter wrote. “In fact, irrigation was the original purpose of Lake Lowell. As a Bureau of Reclamation project, preservation of wildlife habitat is secondary to the water rights owned by irrigators.”
There's more. Otter asserts that state law supersedes wildlife habitat at the refuge, though the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says the purpose of a national wildlife refuge is “to serve as a refuge and breeding grounds for migratory birds and other wildlife.” As is his wont, Otter directly takes on the federal government. “Make no mistake: The responsibility and jurisdiction to manage fish and resident wildlife belong to the State of Idaho,” he writes. You can read his full letter here, which includes this comment, “If the current use of the manmade reservoir, which includes a multitude of recreation activities, has produced such a high-quality wildlife refuge, then it makes sense for those activities to continue.”
Attached to Otter's letter, at the same link, is a five-page detailed comment from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, which isn't as confrontational, says Fish & Game “anticipate(s) a cooperative working relationship with Refuge staff in managing fish and wildlife,” and calls for much more restricted no-wake zones, developing additional fishing access at Gott's Point and other areas, and addresses hunting and other issues. Also attached is a two-page formal comment from Idaho State Parks & Rec, backing continuing current management strategies and calling for much more limited no-wake zones. “Restricting boating access would severely impact Canyon County boaters,” the state parks department wrote.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — All four members of Idaho's congressional delegation are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to extend the public comment period for a conservation plan that could put new restrictions on Lake Lowell. The public comment period is scheduled to expire July 29, but The Idaho Statesman reports the delegation sent a letter this week asking for a 120-day extension. Canyon County officials, boaters and others are worried about the planning process, which they expect will put new restrictions on activities around the man-made lake and surrounding Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. But refuge managers say the changes would help safeguard wildlife while still allowing public access. The proposed plan would limit motorized water sports and bicycles, impose access and boat-launch fees and bar dogs and horses from the refuge.
U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo has called a meeting at Lake Lowell on Saturday on the future of boating and other recreation at the lake, a national wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is in the process of creating a new comprehensive management plan that could threaten some traditional uses, including power boating. “Recreation is a vital part of our lifestyle and our economy, as well as a historical use of Lake Lowell,” Crapo said. “I am encouraged by the strong response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s call for public comment, but the comment period for the new management plan is scheduled to close in mid-September. Now is the time for recreationalists and residents to weigh in and let our elected leaders, as well as the Service, know their feelings about the future use of Lake Lowell.”
The meeting will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at the west end of Lake Lowell, at Lower Dam, south of Nampa. Crapo noted local irrigators helped create Lake Lowell, which is fed by canals supplying water to local agricultural users and property owners. Irrigators, recreational groups and elected officials will all be in attendance for the lake meeting. County commissioners, members of the Idaho House and Senate, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officials, boaters and recreational interests and businesses will attend.