A pilot program to remove dead and down vegetation clogging a Star Valley creek is snarled in red tape.
The Floodwater Task Force in May unveiled a plan to clear sections of a creek south of Highway 260 of debris and sandbars choking its flow, but the town ran into a snag recently when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it needed a permit.
Town Manager/Attorney Tim Grier does not believe the town needs a permit for the work and is working with FEMA to detangle the mess.
Grier admits the town needs to do something to help residents, but is finding it frustrating to get any work started.
“We have been trying to get something done for the citizens, but are having to deal with permits,” he said.
Two years ago, the creek flooded in early January, eating away property lines and nearly taking down a few decks and sheds.
A group of homeowners living along the edge of the creek begged the town to remove a culvert they said was forcing the creek to widen as well as remove brush.
The town said it could not do anything at the time since the creek is not within its jurisdiction. A later study found the culvert is not causing the creek to widen as believed.
The town still maintained though that it would be too risky for it to take on any projects given a mess of agencies, including the county and Army Corps of Engineers, having jurisdiction.
After years of work, however, the Floodwater Task Force said it is possible to do some noninvasive work.
Gary Rolf, task force member, told the Star Valley town council in May the Army Corps had given the green light for work in the creek as long as it left the flow where it is naturally and any sand moved was not redistributed elsewhere.
With this good news, the task force proposed starting a pilot program, clearing a 2,000-foot section of creek at the far south end of town. If the program went well, the task force would work its way up the creek, removing debris from the creek bottom that is impeding the flow.
Besides working with FEMA, Grier is also drawing up a release form for homeowners along the streambed impacted by the proposed project.
The town needs to get approval from residents since some of the work may be on private property.
The town is planning to spend $2,000 on the pilot project with another $48,000 set aside for future work.
If the town can sort out the permit hiccup, work could start soon with a contractor already in place.
“We are trying to find a way to get this done,” Grier said. “It doesn’t have an easy answer though.”