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Boaters beware on the South Fork

Boaters beware on the South Fork

RIRIE, Idaho - An irrigation district's effort to bolster water flow into its canal is causing problems for some boaters on the Snake River's South Fork.

The Progressive Irrigation District built a levee just upstream from the Byington Boat Ramp in Ririe. This levee was re-built after the former levee, dating back to 1887, wasn't providing a strong enough flow of water into the canal.

Manager Mike Harrigfeld said the levee is not only legal, but necessary. With 2,300 patrons relying on the Progressive Irrigation District, Harrigfeld said the levee was not only legal, but necessary.

"It's our job to supply them water, that's our responsibility," said Harrigfeld. "In the low-water part of the summer we just can't get enough water out of that canal, or into it."

Bart Hancock said he has been fishing for nearly 50 years, and he's spent 45 of them boating down the South Fork. He purchased a new boat, and it acquired a large dent its first time in the water. Hancock said it was the unexpected levee that did it.

"I had no idea they changed the course of the river," said Hancock.

Hancock said the problem exists just below the levee, where large rocks are creating an unavoidable hazard for boaters.

"You're committed," said Hancock. "Every one of those whitewater has a reason, because there's a rock underneath it."

Harrigfeld said the rocks boaters are hitting were always there, from the previous dam.

"The shoot that they ran through forced them down on those other rocks that were there previously," said Harrigfeld. "Some of those guys think we put those rocks out there, and that's just ridiculous. We wouldn't place rocks in the river down below the levy."

As water flow increases, Hancock believes the shoot will become a Class 5 rapid.

"They're going to be in for the ride of their life," said Hancock.

Harrigfeld said the District has gone to great lengths to leave enough room for boaters.

"We'll do all we can to, you know, keep that area open," said Harrigfeld. "But, we will serve our patrons, that's our responsibility."

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