DRIGGS, Idaho - Construction crews are getting started on a project that they hope will bring peace of mind to the people of Driggs.
"Teton Creek itself is really an artery to the greater Yellowstone ecosystem -- to the Tetons," said restoration director Mike Lien before construction began.
Lien and his organization, Friends of the Teton River, are in charge of the project to fix the creek after developer Lynn Moses dug out a large ditch in 1980 to create a subdivision. In doing that, Moses removed the flood plain, which Lien said caused problems for Driggs.
"Flood plains are basically pressure release valves for flood events," Lien said.
Flood risk is not the only issue for the city. Nearby irrigators were left high and dry when water was diverted from smaller channels. Additionally, as water flows through the ditch during the spring, the banks are eroding at an alarming rate. Lien says erosion can recede the banks by as much as 30 feet per year.
Engineer Ryan Colyer, who helped design the restoration project, said crews will add features to make the ditch as much like a natural river as they can.
"What we did was design a more narrow channel within the current footprint that will convey water and sediment without eroding laterally or vertically," Colyer said.
Lien said the project should be finished in early November. Robert Kinghorn, who recently purchased a house along the edge of the ditch, said a couple months of construction would be worth saving his back yard.
"I think it's going to improve the looks -- the aesthetics of the area," Kinghorn said. "They've talked about it decreasing our flood insurance."
The restoration project costs $2.85 million. FEMA provided $1 million. The rest of the money comes from state and local government agencies and private donations.
Moses was convicted of violating the Clean Water Act in connection to creating the ditch. He served an 18-month sentence in federal prison.