I offer this testimony and these comments on behalf of 3,200-plus members, friends, and supporters of the regional climate activist collective Wild Idaho Rising Tide or WIRT, based for six years in downtown Sandpoint, Idaho, for the public record of the Wednesday, March 16, 2022, Sandpoint City Council regular meeting and public hearing concerning the city decision whether to amend current city code that mandates a water-protective, 25-foot, vegetative buffer along the banks of Sand Creek from downtown to the Highways 95 and 200 bridge. City staff members have proposed this change to accommodate construction of various types of non-building structures extending into and over Sand Creek below its summer high-pool water mark, specifically a public plaza over a grassy area between the waterway and Gunning’s Alley, also called Farmin’s Landing, on the west side.
Ironically, the city originally purchased this creekside property to create ground depression swales of plants that filter and catch storm water sediment and contamination, an overdue component of urban infrastructure that WIRT encourages the city to build. But now, the city seems intent on constructing more artificial, impervious surfaces in the center of a small town already walled off from Idaho’s largest, deepest lake, Pend Oreille, by the flood-raised, BNSF Railway line, an elevated freeway, private condominiums, and a hotel complex, even while the erratic weather, floods, and wildfires of climate chaos threaten environmental disasters and financial losses.
Within the last 15 years, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its economic devastation of small enterprises, downtown businesses have endured destruction of the natural amenities that attract residents and visitors to Sandpoint, imposed by construction of the railroad-parallel, U.S. Highway 95 byway averting the city core, massive fires and demolition of historic district buildings, large tree removals and street and sidewalk reconstruction during numerous shoulder seasons, and WIRT court-challenged expansion of railroad tracks and bridges through recreation waters and the critical habitat of an endangered fish species. (Continue reading these comments in the linked PDF letter.)