Aquatic weeds and algae growing in the Snake River appear to be worst than ever, Burley residents say, while below Shoshone Falls there are clearer waters.
Water experts have said the Middle Snake, which has not met federal or state water-quality standards for several years, is on the mend since faster water flows are washing away aquatic plants.
But, locals say plants appear to be thickening upstream of Milner Dam.
The issue, which was brought to the state Division of Environmental Quality’s attention last week, has prompted the agency to schedule a tour of the Snake River in the Burley area this week.
It is the worst it has ever been, according to Ginny Payne, who lives about one mile upstream from the Burley golf course. A view of the river from Payne’s backyard reveals an expanse of green scum surrounding an island and extending out into the river, with one channel that lets boats through.
Tom Howarth, owner of Tom’s Marina and Sporting Goods below the Burley golf course, said the aquatic plants were not a problem before the state began holding back water above Milner Dam for the new Idaho Power Co. plant there.
The plant opened in November 1992, according to Idaho Power spokesman Jeff Beaman in Boise.
Darren Brandt, water quality science officer for the Division of Environmental Quality, said it is likely that high water levels all year round and slower flows have contributed to aquatic plant growth.
It also could become a hazard for fish, since plants consume oxygen at night, he said. Nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrates that nourish plant growth might be contributors as well, Brandt said.