While federal officials and the tribe looked for ways to get heavy loads of rock and concrete into the $16 million Nez Perce Tribe fish hatchery construction project on the Clearwater River, the state of Idaho reduced load limits on a critical bridge. The reduction came after an annual inspection and was based on age, use and other factors, but apparently not because of any emergency situation, a Nez Perce County commissioner said. Closing the project would put at least 31 people out of work just when project managers were about to hire additional employees. There is an estimate of $122,000 to fix damaged areas. The road was covered with three layers of chip seal two years ago after a landslide caused extensive damage. A chip-sealed road will not hold up to traffic from the hatchery construction. Load limits on the Cherrylane Bridge and Lenore Bridges are so strict that the only other alternative may be to haul rock, sand and concrete over a 60- to 70-mile detour to the hatchery. The tribe is four months into the 14-month project, scheduled for completion in September. The hatchery, being built by the Bonneville Power Administration for operation by the tribe, is intended to help recover natural fish runs.
Though the state game commission was wringing its hands over growing wolf packs, Curt Mack, the tribe's wolf recovery leader, said wolves will not wipe out elk herds. He did say the canine predators could affect the number of elk available to hunters. Mack gave an update to the Fish and Game commissioners Dec. 8. The tribe handles the day-to-day management of wolf recovery in Idaho for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. There are 17 to 20 wolf packs in Idaho and 15 produced litters this year, Mack said. At least four of the 15 packs with litters had their alpha pairs disrupted and some of the packs had no pups survive. Because of that, only nine breeding pairs will be counted toward the delisting goal of 10 breeding pairs of wolves for three consecutive years in each of the recovery areas - Idaho, northwestern Montana and Yellowstone National Park. The service is in the process of re-evaluating that policy, he said. New criteria means the wolves will likely be delisted earlier, but it also means Idaho will be responsible for providing more than just 10 breeding pairs to make up for Montana's shortcoming.