After approving, then reconsidering, Teton County commissioners re-approved a contract to stabilize the bank of the Gros Ventre River.
The intent is to protect a county-owned pathway from seasonal flooding and erosion, which also threaten a highway bridge. The $443,832 contract will pay to add riprap several hundred feet upstream of the bridge.
Commissioners approved the work Sept. 17, but after advocates and experts criticized the interference in the river, they reconsidered Sept. 23.
David Cernicek, wild and scenic river coordinator with the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Jared Baecker of Snake River Fund, Tom Segerstrom of Teton Conservation District and Leslie Steen of Trout Unlimited worried about the riprap’s impacts to the river ecosystem.
“We see this as an opportunity for the county to lead the way in terms of considering ecosystem stewardship of aquatic resources in your flood protection efforts,” Steen said.
But upon a reconsidering Oct. 7, commissioners voted 4-1 to move ahead with the work. Those in favor said it’s the most cost-effective solution, as it would cost money to rework the stabilization plan.
Commissioners also said there would be an opportunity to work with natural resources advocates in the future; protecting the infrastructure is vital now.
“There’s no way this in front of us today is not a temporary fix,” Commissioner Mark Newcomb said. “There’s going to need to be further work done, and that further work can definitely emphasize trying to preserve the river’s current pressure to move south at this point.”
Commissioner Luther Propst was the lone vote in opposition: “I just don’t think armoring should be the only approach we look at in a systematic way. I’d like to see us over time develop a more cooperative relationship with the Gros Ventre River and the Snake River.”