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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

Access reopens to most Western Montana rivers

FISHING — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has lifted flood related closures at most western Montana access sites along the Bitterroot, Clark Fork and Blackfoot Rivers.  Only Woodside Bridge, along the Bitterroot River near Corvallis, remains closed.

Additional access site closures and restrictions around western Montana are possible as runoff continues. FWP officials urge caution if venturing on or near rivers during high water. 

For updates, visit fwp.mt.gov and choose “restrictions and closures.”

Volunteers help restore Spokane River access at state line

RIVERS — Here's a tip of the hat to the 64 volunteers who volunteered on a weekend in October to plant 550 trees and shrubs and install fencing and improvements to restore the Spokane River shoreline at the state line river access site.

The ongoing project is coordinated by the Spokane Conservation District and Spokane River Forum and supported by numerous other groups and local businesses that prize the Spokane River and public access to its assets.

Saturday’s highlights

Greenacres Elementary School science teacher, Shelly Mahn, works with fifth-grader Ian Rusbuldt during a physical and chemical changes assignment Friday. The school has received a second School of Distinction award from the Center for Educational Effectiveness. SR photo/Dan Pelle

Well, that was a nice bit of freezing rain we had this morning. It was coating my windshield faster than I could scrape it off. Now it's time to go over some highlights from Saturday's Valley Voice. Reporter Nicole Hensley has a story on Greenacres Elementary School being named a School of Distinction for its improving test scores. The teachers use a new math curriculum and interactive whiteboards to help students learn.

The city of Spokane Valley hosted a public meeting to talk about the replacement of the west Sullivan Bridge. They also outlined several construction projects that will take place this spring and summer, including the expansion of Sullivan Park and the grind and overlay of Sullivan Road north of the Spokane River.

River access was also the topic of discussion at the Spokane Valley Planning Commission meeting last week. The commission is reviewing a draft public access plan that is part of the city's state-mandated update of its Shoreline Master Program.

A Spokane Valley Fire Department engine rear-ended on the freeway at the end of December has made the trip back to the factory to see if it is totalled or not. The impact crushed part of the back bumper, popped welded joints and cracked the truck body, but the condition of the frame is unknown. The engine cost about $500,000 when it was purchased several years ago.

Sullivan Bridge river access focus of meeting Wednesday

RIVERS — Proposals for providing public access to the Spokane River under the new Sullivan Road Bridge project will be revealed 4 p.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 16) in Council Chambers at Spokane Valley City Hall, 11707 E. Sprague Ave., Suite 101.

The updated Public Access Plan provisions of Spokane Valley's Shoreline Master Program also include details regarding Shelley Lake.

Public access to the river at Sullivan Road is critical to paddlers, including kayakers, canoeists and rafters as well as anglers.

Copies of the Public Access Plan section of the SMP are available on the city website at www.spokanevalley.org by selecting the Planning & Zoning link on the home page, and then the Long Range Planning link.

To sign up for email updates, contact LBarlow@spokanevalley.org or call (509) 720-5335.

Sullivan Bridge project should include river access for paddlers

RIVERS — Plans for replacing Sullivan Road's deteriorating west bridge over the Spokane River apparently include provision for recreational river access, according to canoe, kayaking and rafting groups that have been meeting with Spokane Valley planners.

“Had a very good meeting with engineers and City of the Valley officials last week and it looks like some new access is in the works when the project is done,” said Paul Delaney in an email to members of Northwest Whitewater.

City planners will explain the project in detail during a public presentations at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Jan. 9 at CenterPlace, 2426 N. Discovery Place, Spokane Valley. 

Waters sports enthusiasts should be involved with this process to lend their support to keeping river access on the agenda.

High flows restrict access to Montana rivers

RIVERS — High river flows have forced closures to any kind of rafting or boating on portions of two Montana rivers — The Smith and Belt Creek — plus access restrictions for the Missouri River.

Read on for details.

Coming on Saturday

We've got some great stories (and photos) coming your way for Saturday. The Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club teamed up with the City of Spokane Valley this week to make improvements to the river access by the Barker Bridge. Reporter Lisa Leinberger attend one of the East Valley School District special meetings to discuss the closure of Mountain View Middle School and she'll have a report on that. She'll also have information on who was selected to be the new Liberty Lake Elementary School principal. Finally, I'll have a look at some training the Spokane Valley Fire Department did last week on trench rescues. Just stay out of deep holes in the ground and we'll be good.

River users feel betrayed

The Barker Road Bridge the day it opened back up to traffic in June 2010 after being closed for two years. SR photo/Bart Rayniak.

Outdoors writer Rich Landers has a story today about problems with river access after the construction of the Barker Bridge. Kayakers and fishermen could access the river there before the bridge was built and the City of Spokane Valley changed the design of the bridge to maintain the access. But now river users say the access point is worse than it was before and there are now new problems with erosion at the site. Read the story to find the response of city officials.

Rich also has a blog post with before and after photos of the launch area.