Pocatello resident wins national conservation award

POCATELLO — H. Bud Smalley said he was dumbstruck.

In August, the Pocatello resident received a letter and an e-mail notifying him that he would be presented with the Distinguished Service Award for Conservation by Trout Unlimited, a leading organization devoted to trout and salmon conservation.

For almost 10 years now, Smalley has been the leader for the Portneuf River Project, which seeks to protect and preserve the Southeast Idaho river for future generations.

Smalley was presented with the national award on Sept. 30 at Trout Unlimited’s annual meeting in Bozeman, Montana. Despite the recognition, Smalley said the Portneuf River Project has been a group effort, with multiple volunteers, and both private and governmental organizations contributing to its success.

“These are all like-minded people who want to clean up the river,” he said. “I just organize the meetings and bring them together to perform miracles.”

Since 2006, the Portneuf River Project Partners have spent over $1 million on conservation projects along the river. These projects include building riparian fences, promoting public access, reclaiming two channels of one of the river’s major tributaries and stabilizing the river’s stream beds, just to name a few.

The results of this conservation work have been noticeable. The work has helped restore the upper Portneuf River to its original pristine condition and helped create public awareness of the need to improve the condition of the river’s waters. Even the river’s native Yellowstone cutthroat trout are benefiting from the restoration efforts.

“We’re seeing the Yellowstone cutthroat trout moving upstream to spawn,” Smalley said. “That’s going to help continue to increase the population.”

But Smalley wants to recognize the work of his volunteers and the organizations that have worked with the Portneuf River Project.

These organizations include Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Idaho Fish and Game, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, the Southeast Idaho Fly Fishers, the Cities of Pocatello and Lava Hot Springs, the Caribou and Portneuf Soil and Water Conservation services, the NRCS, and many more.

Smalley, an Ohio native, is a former U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor. He met his wife, Ann, while both were serving at Parris Island. He said that after they were discharged in the 1970s, a friend in Idaho Falls convinced them to relocate to East Idaho.

“He sent me the help-wanted section of the Sunday newspaper and there were pages and pages of jobs in the help wanted ads,” he said. “Within two weeks, we were on our way to Idaho Falls.”

After working in sales and insurance, he eventually relocated to Pocatello, which he has called home for over 30 years. Last Friday, he retired from Idaho Power.

A month before receiving the national award from Trout Unlimited, he also became the first recipient of the Bill Davidson Conservation Award by the Sagebrush Steppe Land Trust, a local organization devoted to conserving private lands.

Now that he has more free time on his hands, he hopes to do even more work with the Portneuf River Project.

“Eventually, once the river’s banks are stabilized, the river will run cold and clear all the way down to Pocatello,” he said.

Currently, the Portneuf River Project is working to complete its Pebble Project. Since work began five years ago, 600 yards of riparian fence have been installed to protect the main stem of the river.

Over one mile of two branches of Pebble Creek, which flows into the river, has been restored to its pre-1941 channels, an act that is expected to be eight times more productive for rearing Yellowstone cutthroat trout. A stock water well and off-stream water troughs were built to both benefit livestock and protect the waterways along with two fish-friendly open-bottom culverts.

The group also installed a gravity-fed irrigation system for local ranchers that is more efficient than the flood irrigation systems that were previously used.

However, material and construction costs were higher than anticipated, and the Portneuf River Project is asking for donations to help finish the project.

To donate to the Pebble Project, please visit www.gofundme.com/2mpdkkry.




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Fence installed.        Result of fencing efforts.



 News Release – 3 September, 2011   Portneuf River Project

Topaz Landing Project

Bud Smalley of the Carriboo Conservancy announced completing the planning stage for a major Portneuf River restoration project to be conducted this fall at Topaz Landing.  The Carriboo Conservancy along with public and private contributors to the Portneuf River Project will provide a new public access point to the river and complete stream bank stabilization and flood plain restoration.  Contributing public members of the project include Idaho Fish and Game, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, the Idaho Transportation Department, and the US Forest Service.  Private contributors include the JR Simplot, the Carriboo Conservancy, the Sagebrush Steppe Regional Land Trust and several landowners in the river’s area including Ken Andrus, Roland Hull, Joleen Johnson, Dr. Randolf Seed and Carolynn Williams.

The project has a permit from the Department of Water Resources to complete stream bed stabilization and flood plain restoration work this fall.  This will require moving 2 to 3 thousand cubic yards of dirt off of the river banks.  Banks that are 10 to 14 feet high will be cut down to 1 ½ feet above the water line.   Those new banks will be stabilized with native grasses and bulrushes and willows.   In the deep pools on the outside bends full sized junipers will be buried underwater deep back into the existing banks and held down with heavy boulders then back filled over to help recreate flood plain.    The work being done will remove the high sandbanks that result from erosion displayed in the photo on the left and create a stable healthy stream bank that will look like the photo on the right.


This project has been in the planning stage for almost 2 years and is going to come together as a success because of the unique cooperation of all of the organizations and individuals involved in the Portneuf River Project.  To see more of the efforts of the Portneuf River Project or to join in the effort, you can visit www.portneufriverproject.com

 Idaho State Journal Article

 Restoring the river

  Project aims to help renew former glory of Portneuf and tributaries

  BY JOHN O’CONNELL u LAVA HOT SPRINGS     joconnell@journalnet.com ?

     When Mike and Roxie Holsten saw the aerial photos from the 1940s, they finally diagnosed the cause of the perennial problem spot on their property, where Pebble Creek, a major tributary to the Portneuf River, always seems to overflow.

   Today, the creek flows as a canal-like channel for a mile and a half through their cattle ranch. That photo, provided to them by hydrologists from the U.S. Forest Service, showed a winding stream, with a bend at the     precise location of their problem area.

   After decades of flowing through artificial banks, that channel will soon be restored to a natural state by the numerous partners in a holistic approach to bringing the Portneuf River back to its former glory, called the Portneuf River Project.

   “Going back to nature — that’s what it’s all about,” Roxie Holsten said. “We think it’s going to be good for us. They’re going to make it more environmentally friendly.”

   Though they haven’t signed an official agreement, the Holstens haven’t found much downside to granting their consent for the creek restoration. The Portneuf River Project intends to line the creek with fencing to keep their cattle out, but they’ll also put in watering stations elsewhere for the livestock. The plan   also entails planting new shrubs to reduce erosion.

   “We are excited about what they’ve done. There’s (Forest Service) hydrologists. There’s the Fish and Game. It’s amazing with everyone on the same side,” Holsten said. “If one person couldn’t explain something to my husband or me, another person could. It just felt like we were all on the same side.”

   The total cost of the Pebble Creek project is estimated at $175,000, and the officials are optimistic about their application for a $50,000 grant toward it.

   The Holsten stretch of Pebble Creek is located between the Portneuf River and National Forest Service land.

   “(Michael Holsten) realized he was looking at what could be greatly improved   water quality and land value. He said, ‘Put it back in its original channel,’” said Bud Smalley, an official with the Southeast Idaho Fly Fishers and president of the Portneuf River Project.

   David Teuscher, Fish and Game’s regional fisheries manager for Southeast Idaho, said fish populations typically triple when channelized waterways are restored to a natural state, with pools and meanders.

   Ralph Peterson, a science teacher at North Gem High School, intends to recruit some of his students to help the Portneuf River Project improve the stretch of creek when work starts this summer.

   “I want my kids to be involved in putting up those fences,” Peterson said.  

   Roxie Holsten also teaches at North Gem and has a son in his class. She said Peterson’s interest in the health of the creek and river are “the reason I was interested in this (project) in the first place.”

   In the spring of 2003, Peterson’s advanced biology class began testing the water quality of Pebble Creek, accessing it on the Holsten land. A Department of Environmental Quality official also comes into Peterson’s class to lecture about the health of the Portneuf River on an annual basis.

   “One year, our project was to compare the river itself to Pebble Creek. Pebble Creek is quite clear,” Peterson said. “Hopefully with this channel it will get even   better yet. There is some sediment, and hopefully that will be one of the things that’s cut out a little bit.”

   Peterson also believes a more natural flow will provide fish a place to spawn and hide.

   “We have some very special   cutthroat in that river, and this would give them a better chance to get up in that stream and spawn,” Peterson said. “It’s a prized river. My kids have all done a lot of fishing on that river. I grew up fishing on that river, and we’d all like to see it as clean as it used to be.”

   Another major Portneuf River project planned by the partners involves improving a stretch of the main stem Portneuf below Lava Hot Springs along the Old Oregon Trail Road — located along 6 acres of land that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game now owns. Tall, sandy banks that currently dump sediment into the river will be stabilized.

   Mark Gamblin, Southeast Idaho regional supervisor   for Fish and Game, explained the project will result in the first public fishing access on that stretch of river. Though it’s not presently prime fishing real estate, Gamblin believes it will be in the future thanks to the improvements that will take place as a result of the Portneuf River Project’s efforts.

   “We all looked at that as a strategic purchase,” Gamblin said. “Here’s an opportunity to get public access to the river now. It’ll be there when all of these benefits move downstream.”

   The Portneuf River Project meets on the last Monday of each month at the local Fish and Game office. The loose-knit group of governmental and nongovernmental entities includes: the Sagebrush Steppe Regional   Land Trust, Trout Unlimited, Southeast Idaho and Magic Valley Fly Fishers, the Carriboo Conservancy, Fish and Game, the Idaho Wildlife Foundation, the Portneuf Soil and Water Conservation District, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Pocatello, the City of Lava Hot Springs and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.

   Their goal is to improve the quality of the river from Chesterfield Reservoir all the way to where it enters the Snake River at the southeast corner of American Falls Reservoir.  

   The Portneuf River Project is building on efforts to protect the Portneuf that date back about 20 years, when the Fish and Game regional fisheries manager at the time, John Heimer, first organized local outdoorsmen to enhance the Upper Portneuf’s riparian habitat.

   In cooperation with willing landowners, more than five miles of fence has been built to keep cattle out of the river since then. That cooperative spirit continues with the Portneuf River Project.

   “There’s no taking. There’s no forcing,” Joselin   Matkins, executive director of the Sagebrush Steppe Regional Land Trust said about the Portneuf River Project’s approach.

   Smalley added, “Pretty much everyone with land adjacent to the Portneuf River is going to see improved land value. I don’t want to do anything that’s adverse to any property owner along there.”

   Smalley noted the groups have high hopes that the city of Pocatello will be successful in its efforts to obtain water rights from the Portneuf Marsh Valley Canal Company to bolster the flows in the river.  

   He said the irrigation company has applied for a grant to reduce water loss through piping or lining its delivery system, and the city could acquire the savings.

   Closer to Pocatello, the U.S. Forest Service recently completed an assessment of the Mink Creek watershed and has planned multiple projects that should benefit the cause of the Portneuf River Project, including relocating the South Mink Creek Road out of a riparian area, restoring straightened sections of Mink Creek to a natural state and replacing culverts.  

   The Portneuf Soil and Water Conservation District’s Marsh Creek Watershed Project has received a DEQ grant to assist landowners along Marsh Creek, a major contributor of sediment to the Portneuf, to improve their operations for the benefit of the river.

   “The Portneuf River Project is just a great example of the community coming together with a vision that we believe will capture the untapped potential of the Portneuf River to contribute greatly to the economy, clean water, quality of life and world-class recreational opportunity, to make this an even better place to live than it already is,” Gamblin said.  


Portneuf River Project – News Release - October 2010


The Carriboo Conservancy announces the donation of approximately seven acres of land to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game that provides the Portneuf River Project a half mile section of the river a few miles downstream from the city of Lava for public access. The Portneuf River Project is dedicated to preserve and protect the Portneuf River from Chesterfield Reservoir to the City of Pocatello.  

The donation of the land culminated when the Carriboo Conservancy was able to coordinate the efforts of non-governmental and governmental sponsors of the Portneuf River Project; the Carriboo Conservancy, Idaho Fish and Game, Idaho DEQ, the Sagebrush Steppe Regional Land Trust, South East Idaho Fly Fishers, Magic Valley Fly Fishers, J. R. Simplot Co. and the Racine Law firm of Pocatello. This coalition working together was able to raise over $30,000 to make the project a success. This groups work and dedication to the project provides public access to the Portneuf River where none has previously existed. The Portneuf River Project partners will now be able to pull back and stabilize a sand bank that has been generating thousands of pounds of sediment to the river along this entire section.  Through this demonstration project the Portneuf River Project partnership will show what can be done to rehabilitate a riparian zone and improve the quality of the water in the river.

The Portneuf River Project is part of an ongoing effort. The South East Idaho Fly Fishers working with ranchers, the Idaho Fish and Game and the Idaho DEQ for the last 20 years have built miles of riparian corridor fence along the upper Portneuf in an area that is now designated as a Yellowstone Cutthroat recovery area. We are also working with another rancher to preserve a vital spawning stream to aid that recovery effort. 

Downstream, the City of Lava Hot Springs has a citizens group energized by the Project and are they are working on stream bank stabilization and protection projects within the city limits. Further downstream still we have ranchers who have invited us to come to talk to them about stream bank stabilization and riparian improvement projects. 

The City of Pocatello has been successful in acquiring upstream water rights in order to keep water in the river channel through the city in what is traditionally the hottest time of the summer with the lowest flows. This effort will greatly improve water quality and aquatic habitat through the lower stretches of the river.  The City is working with the Department of Water Resources to establish a new irrigation district so that a water master can be assigned to the lower portion of the river to safeguard the precious little water that is in the channel. 

The Portneuf River provides wonderful fishing opportunities and is a secret destination for many close mouthed fishermen. The river sports a healthy population of cutthroat, rainbows, and brown trout for its entire length. A population that is benefitting from the hard work and dedication of a diverse range of people who only want to see the river running clean and clear all the way to the City of Pocatello.

Join us. Go to www.portneufriverproject.com and see what we are about. Make a donation, volunteer, come to the table with the rest of us and let’s make a difference for our great grandchildren. 


Portneuf River Project news release   August 3, 2009

The Project Partners have grown again with the addition of the City of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Jim Mende and Bud Smalley made a presentation to the City Council and they agreed immediately that the City needed to support the Portneuf River Project. An immediate motion was made and passed unanimously by the Mayor and City Council.

Interestingly the City of Lava Hot Springs is in the midst of what they have dubbed a “Horizon Project”. It is an economic revitalization project that will include stream bank stabilization and repair work as well as a native plant interpretive walking area. The goals of the Horizon Project are right in line with the goals of the Portneuf River Project so this will be an exciting match of our groups. 

The Portneuf River Project is very pleased to welcome Lava Hot Springs as a partner.


Greetings Fellow Sportsmen,                                                    September 2008

The Portneuf River Project is a cooperative effort between non-government conservation groups and government agencies who all share an interest in preserving and enhancing outdoor recreational opportunities, our environment, and native species recovery. Our vision provides exciting possibilities for not only preserving and protecting the Portneuf River and Chesterfield Reservoir but also for improving the entire system beyond what anyone can remember. Improved fish and wildlife habitat as well as more public access are our goals. The partners in the Project would like to share their vision with you on September 24th at the ISU Student Union Building in the Little Wood River Room on the second floor from 6 to 9 pm.

We will start with a meet and greet and finger food followed by short presentations from the project sponsors. You will hear from myself as President of the Carriboo Conservancy. Kim Goodman-Trotter – Director of the Idaho Water Project with Trout Unlimited, Mark Gamblin – Idaho Fish and Game Supervisor for Region 5, Greg Mladenka – Scientist with the Idaho State Department of Environmental Quality, David Tuescher – Idaho Fish and Game Region 5 Fisheries Manager, and John Sigler – City of Pocatello Chief Environmental Engineer. At the end of the presentation we will have a question and answer period and wrap up by 9pm.

This is an exciting project that will change the face of South East Idaho forever and turn the Portneuf and Chesterfield Reservoir into a system to rival Henry’s Lake and the Henry’s Fork. Please come to out to join us on the 24th.

Thank you,

Bud Smalley

Carriboo Conservancy, Inc.
Co Sponsor of The Portneuf River Project. 


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