The following testimony was made before the Idaho Transportation Department, Board of Directors, on Thursday, September 13, 2018, at the ITD Offices in Rigby, Idaho:
“My name is Ken Watts. I am the chairman of the Island Park Preservation Coalition. The Coalition is a grass roots organization made up of Island Park and Fremont County citizens. The vision of the coalition is to preserve and enhance multiple use in the Island Park area. The Coalition’s vision and mission are submitted for the record.
As you know, Idaho bridges are rated D and roads C- by the American Society of Civil Engineers. According to ASCE the maintenance backlog for Idaho bridges is $2.2B. The maintenance shortfall for roads is projected to be $3.6B over the next 20 years. The Coalition believes that it is fiscally irresponsible to even consider constructing wildlife overpasses, underpasses and miles of fencing with this liability facing the State of Idaho. Lt. Governor Brad Little agrees. He stated: “Every year, Idaho has a shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars for the maintenance of Idaho’s roads and bridges. The cost of these wildlife overpasses do not seem like a wise and prudent use of precious transportation dollars.” The ASCE report is submitted for the record.
The Island Park Chamber of Commerce, the Fremont County mayors, the Fremont County Commissioners, the District 35 State Representatives and Senator, the Fremont County Farm Bureau, the Big Horn Hills Estates Property Owners Association, and the Coalition oppose wildlife overpasses and fencing in Fremont County. In addition, the Coalition has collected nearly 4000 signatures of people in opposition to wildlife overpasses and fencing. A County advisory vote will be held on November 6, 2018 to assess the sentiment of the voters in Fremont County on this issue. Lt. Governor Brad Little stated: “Additionally, there are important requirements that must be met for a project of this size. ITD and other state agencies must receive buy in from local stakeholder groups and the citizens most affected by the project. This isn’t the case at this time. Infrastructure improvements should also clearly improve a community and its local economy.” There is overwhelming opposition to overpasses and fencing on HWY 20 in Fremont County.
The overpasses and fencing may have a negative impact on the recreation economy of Island Park. The risk is unacceptable to the Coalition and the groups previously mentioned. In addition, the Coalition believes that the overpasses and fencing will lead to the desecration of the US20 corridor. This is an environmentally sensitive area. The Targhee Pass area has wet lands and a trout stream immediately adjacent to the highway that could be damaged. It is also part of the Nez Perce Trail, the Trail of Tears, which may contain important historical artifacts. Photos of an overpass, under construction, are submitted for the record. The environmental concerns shown in the photos are obvious. The photos depict overpasses currently under construction East of Wells, Nevada. These overpasses are over two lanes of traffic. At Targhee Pass an overpass would be over three lanes. This will increase the cost by a factor of 3 to 5 based on the higher strength required of the structure, not to mention the seismic zone requirements which have not been discussed. It may not even be possible to transport the massive pre-stressed concrete arches required.
To summarize, there is overwhelming opposition to wildlife overpasses and fencing in Fremont County. The Coalition supports common sense, fiscally responsible solutions to safe wildlife passage, like reduced speed limits and active warning signs.”
Reprinted with permission IP News
Making Sense of It All
This blog will help you make sense out of all the information on the website, how it affects IP, previous articles in the IP News, our history, and how efforts continue to put IP into various forms of conservation status.