SMOKE & MIRRORS IN
THE SAWTOOTH VALLEY
In late June, without notice to the SNRA or local residents, the
Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) bulldozed a new gravel pit just off
Fourth of July road in the Sawtooth Valley
Asphalt smoke and fumes spew into the Sawtooth Valley at the State of
Fourth of July gravel pit. The Sawtooth Wilderness is in the background.
Lynne Stone photo.
The state owns a 640-acre section of land here and someone in ITD suddenly
decided to construct a new pit rather than use one on SNRA land a mile
away, or others closer to the Highway 21 project where the crushed rock
and asphalt was to be delivered.
By early July, rock crushers were up and running, sending dust into the
pristine airshed and soon the new pit was larger than several football
fields. Then, an asphalt plant was added that belched black smoke and
fumes, settling so thick into Champion Creek canyon that even the wolves
Semi-trucks hauled the crushed gravel and asphalt seven days a week, up to
40 miles one-way, through the Sawtooth Valley, Stanley, to Banner Summit.
The project will continue in 2007. The state intends to use the site for
the next two decades.
Certainly, highways need maintenance. But, there are gravel sources closer
to Banner Summit than Fourth of July Creek. SNRA staff says there was a
misunderstanding with ITD.
State and federal officials have talked of swapping the remaining state
parcels in the SNRA for federal land elsewhere. In the meantime, maybe
some influential Sawtooth Valley residents will speak to Idaho's new
governor who could assert some influence over ITD.
The gravel pit was not in operation, but likely will be
again in the future.