Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BLM Addresses Potential Closure of Skinny Dipper Hot Springs

 Garden ValleyThe unauthorized development of soaking pools and piping at Skinny Dipper Hot Springs on Banks Lowman Highway, four miles east of Banks, will be the focus during two public meetings held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in July.
  Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), BLM will analyze a range of alternatives, including a proposal to remove the unauthorized development which is a trespass on public lands. These actions are being initiated due to significant health and safety concerns that have been brought to the attention of BLM by law enforcement units, Central District Health (Idaho Health District 4), Idaho Transportation Department and concerned citizens.
  BLM Boise District Public Affairs Officer, MJ Byrne, says, “Actually, we don’t have any other alternatives in mind, but are reaching out to ‘keepers’ of the land—anybody in the public interested in trying to keep the springs open. Perhaps they can come up with ideas. We are trying to be completely open and haven’t made any decisions yet.”
  The hot springs were developed in the early 1990s, by the usage of rocks, cement and PVC piping—with hot and cold water. Byrne acknowledges that the springs have been used for many years by people wanting to enjoy the natural surroundings. “But some folk say it’s not very natural,” says Byrne. “We are not just looking at rules and regulations. We are also concerned with safety and sanitation issues, which have been going on for years.”      
  The trespass, which draws a large number of day and night visitors, is resulting in an environment where unsafe and often illegal activities occur. The BLM Boise District reinstituted a temporary nighttime closure on May 25, 2012, to stop these activities. BLM rangers have issued forty-four closure violations since May 25.  The closure has reduced the nighttime use, but Byrne says the violations are still occurring.
  The first of the two public meetings will held in Boise at the BLM Boise District Office at 3948 S. Development Ave., on July 17, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  The second public meeting will be held in Garden Valley, at the Crouch Community Hall, 329 Village Circle, on July 18, 2013, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Comments from the public should be received by BLM by August, 15, 2013, to be most helpful in developing and analyzing proposed alternatives.
   MJ Byrne says she is aware that some people have invested themselves in the springs: “Hopefully, the final decision will be a shared decision.” Byrne may be contacted at mbyrne@blm.gov or 2080384-3393.

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