Greenway, pond face uncertain future

The Payette Greenway runs closely alongside the bank of the Payette River, and city officials in November of 2018 said it’s only a matter of time before another high-water event badly damages the paved pathway again.

Payette city officials acknowledge that riverbank erosion along the Payette Greenway could ruin the riverside walkway along the Payette River and the Payette Pond as well, but they may not find the funds this year to earnestly begin work on a prevention plan.

Payette City Councilor Alan Massey, the council’s most active agent for designing a long-term solution for the washout menace, informed the full council on July 1 that full funding was available for a feasibility study, but there were definitely “strings attached.”

If the study were to determine the project was feasible, then the city would be committed to carrying through with it. Although grants could cover chunks of the overall project cost, the city would be on the hook for the remainder. Given the project’s size, that’s a scary commitment for the city to make.

“It’s going to end up being probably in the millions,” Massey said. “There are grants that come with that, but it’s still going to cost the city a significant dollar figure over a period of time.”

Massey explained there are “basically three different parts” to the potential project. “There’s the first part,… which is determining whether or not there is feasibility for the thing to work. But then there’s another thing that could cost up to several hundred thousand, half a million or so,” which includes design and “cost estimating and everything else. Once you get through that, then there’s the contracting part of it, the actual building.”

“So it is going to be a substantial amount, and I think the feeling that I got from the council last time was that there was no way that we could really budget and work with this,” Massey conceded.

The only way Massey can see for the project to ever go forward is for Payette to find one or more partners to help with funding. He said Payette County and Ducks Unlimited both came to mind as prospective partners.

Mayor Jeff Williams said Ducks Unlimited likes projects that enhance wetlands, but he fears the organization could be put off by these wetlands’ location inside the city limits, which is off limits for hunting. “I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer,” Williams added.

Massey said the council could consider ways of taking the most preliminary steps needed anyway for educating the public about the problem and trying to attract funding partners. He suggested “seeing if there’s anything we want to put in our economic development [budget] to help start it or at least explore or see if we want to do something with public meetings or something to say this is one of the ways we can go. And with that support [for the project] maybe we could do it — and if we can’t, then obviously we can’t,” Massey said.

“But,” added Massey, “I think we all agree that it’s something that could be catastrophic in the future if things go wrong. But there’s no guarantee that it’s ever going to flood, there’s no guarantee it’s not going to flood.”

Williams, though, thinks it’s nearly a sure bet the river will flood damagingly, probably not many years from now.

“It’s going to flood. It’s going to ruin a bunch of stuff at some point in time,” the mayor said.

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