2024 Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science™ Awards Competition Winner

E3S Honor Award

Honor Award - Small Projects

The Gateway Reserve

Entrant: Boelter Risk Science and Engineering LLC
Engineer in Charge: Fred W. Boelter, CIH, P.E., BCEE, FAIHA
Location: Boise, Idaho
Media Contact: Fred W. Boelter, CIH, P.E., BCEE, FAIHA

Entrant Profile

Frank Boelter

Fred Boelter, PE, in May 2019 interacting with the contractor at The Gateway Reserve

Frederick William Boelter of Boelter Risk Sciences and Engineering LLC has since 1973 been professionally assessing, characterizing, communicating, designing, and resolving questions and concerns with his technical and management skills in occupational health, public health, and environmental engineering. Fred’s resume of broad experience encompasses air, water, natural resource degradation, wetland delineations, NESHAP, TSCA, RBCA, NPL, TACAO, Brownfields, product stewardship, ESG, and sustainability. Fred has traveled extensively consulting with clients throughout North, Central and South America, the UK, and Europe as well as more than 30 other countries on a wide range of risk characterization, communication, and management matters. Fred is a member of professional organizations including AWMA, AIHA, ASHRAE, AAEES, and SRA and has served on their boards, committees and presented at numerous conferences both domestically and internationally as well as taught professional development courses and webinars. Fred has also published in peer reviewed professional journals and co‐authored a number of chapters in technical publications. Fred is certified in the Comprehensive Practice of Industrial Hygiene, a licensed Professional Engineer, and a Board Certified Environmental Engineer. Fred is also a Fellow of the AIHA and a recipient of national awards including the Edward J. Baier, the Henry F. Smyth, and the Donald E. Cummings.

Fred was the design engineer on The Sacred, The Brownfield, The Gateway Reserve. Many other folks, organizations, governmental agencies, and contractors assisted on this project and are acknowledged in the Project Description of this application for a 2024 award in Excellence in Environmental Engineering and Science.

Project Description

The Sacred, The Brownfield, The Gateway Reserve: Recovering the sublime from the mundane

The Gateway Reserve (TGR) in Idaho is a small project with old sacred roots, Industrial Revolution resource extraction fingerprints, and an existential threat that motivated a drive to secure the future. The Gateway Reserve comprising 12 acres has inspired ‘big impact’ ideas about a Northbank Conservancy seeded with 50 acres along several miles of Boise River riparian habitat (known as the Barber Pool), which sit within Boise Idaho, one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas, now facing development pressure on all sides.

Through time immemorial, this area is “Peace Valley”, set on an alluvial fan of the Rocky Mountains along the northern reaches of the Great Basin. Here, at the edge of the largest desert in North America, lies a place called “Cop‐Cop‐Pa‐Ala” by the indigenous Shoshone and Bannock people, used by those who gathered along the river, traded peacefully, and lived with abundant water, plants and wildlife. TGR was created from land intercepted from a home developer in favor of reviving the Peace Valley, where the natural environment is protected and maintained, with appropriate opportunities for humanity to enjoy this special place.

In the past 120 years, this area of the 700‐acre Barber Pool was heavily used for ranching, hydroelectric power, brickmaking, a sawmill, agricultural and residential development, and ad hoc recreation. After natural resources were extracted and the area lost its economic viability, it was abandoned as a hub of activity, save for human waste stabilization ponds serving a mobile home community on the site of a former milltown, called Barberton. In the late 1990s, a summer amphitheater was built in what at the time was a remote area six miles upriver from the state capitol. Prior to its first performance, the amphitheater was blessed by Native American tribal members who burned sage and buried the ashes at the foot of the stage. In the 2010s, Idaho Shakespeare Festival (ISF) and its donors raised the funds to purchase the vacated sewage ponds, conducted remediation, and created and connected TGR to the riparian floodway.

This small project was astoundingly complex and involved the cooperation of Federal, State, County, and City agencies as well as input from public hearings, testimony from neighborhood associations, and in‐kind donations from consultants and contractors. Design considerations included surface water, groundwater, water rights, FEMA and FERC jurisdictions, and study results authored by the ACoE. Consideration was given the ‘rock crib’ Barber Dam (c. 1904) – whose northern ‘toe’ rests on a corner of TGR – as well as to native xeriscape and ‘wet feet’ tolerant species.

The final design was permitted for construction in the spring of 2019, with grading and filling completed during the summer months. However, construction of the wetland itself was deferred due to concerns from an adjacent school about to open its fall semester. In November of 2019, two different native seed mixes were hydroseeded, applying xeriscape to the north 6 acres, and wet feet tolerant to the south 6 acres closer to the water table. The nascent Gateway Reserve was fenced off to allow for springtime germination and sprouting.

Then the COVID shutdown occurred and human activity slowed dramatically while wildlife began exploring what had been created. ISF was unable to perform, and the entire season was ultimately cancelled. Plans shifted to a different kind of environmental engineering challenge, namely protecting staff and actors as well as the public in anticipation of how to open a 2021 season. (How this was accomplished was subsequently published in a December 2021 professional journal.)

Back at TGR, in December of 2020 a contractor had time and equipment available to grade the designated wetland area and channel, within inches of the water table. Absent a winter demand for surface water used by agriculture, the watermaster released metered river water to fill the wetland, matching the source‐depth prior to opening an excavated connecting channel. In March of 2021, this south channel was opened and within days beavers, ducks, and waterfowl were exploring their new home. Over the ensuing days, weeks, and months, other birds, raptors, mice, deer, bobcat, fox, owls, and coyote were checking out TGR. So were a number of humans who respectfully kept their distance and stayed on the walking bridge and paths.

Just a couple months after opening this new south channel, Idaho Shakespeare Festival was successful in mounting a full summer season, implementing an environmental health‐and‐safety policy and program that protected the public, attendees, staff, and actors.

The Gateway Reserve has almost 3 years of water level data, a robust and flourishing growth of native vegetation, abundant resident birds and wildlife as well as those that migrate through, a steady stream of area students, bird watchers and others taking a walk and enjoying the uniqueness of this peaceful place.

A local artist was so inspired by the transformation from chain link surrounding sewerage lagoons to a gathering place full of life that he painted a triptych featuring a morning view of TGR, a tiger moth feeding on milkweed, and an endangered northern bald ibis that happened to be passing through. In the spring of 2023, the artist submitted this triptych for consideration in the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum juried Birds in Art show. It was selected and on display until the end of 2023.

The Gateway Reserve is a gem that connects, renews, and contributes to the common good.

Aside from the funds raised to buy‐out an option and then acquire the land, the 10‐year transformation into today’s Reserve was accomplished through in‐kind donations, volunteer efforts, approximately $25,000 of out‐ of‐pocket expenses, and the generosity of Mother Nature.

There are so many people and companies to thank. These include Fred Boelter, PE (Design and Permitting Engineer), scientist Pat Wickman (Forsgren Associates), Taylor Davis (ISF Buildings and Grounds Manager), Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation, Idaho Foundation for Parks and Land, Warner Construction, Veasy Seeding, The Wetlands Group, County of Ada Idaho, City of Boise, Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, ISF Board of Directors, and Barber Valley Neighborhood Association.

Click images to enlarge in separate window.

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Photo 1 – Aerial c.1930 looking SE. The hydroelectric powerhouse and Boise‐Payette sawmill are shown in proximity to the future site of three human waste stabilization ponds, later to be known as The Gateway Reserve. The future site is underwater east of a rail spur, from which trains deposited logs off flatcars into the holding pond. Note the 1909 New York Irrigation Canal along the south bank and wagon ruts of the Oregon Trail as the ruts descend the Kelton ramp to meet the river. Photo 2 – Aerial c.2023 looking west. In the center foreground is the ISF amphitheater shown in proximity of The Gateway Reserve which almost became a 43 home extension of the subdivision visible in the upper right. This represented an existential threat to ISF.
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Photo 3 – c.2013 looking north across the decommissioned former primary (anerobic) human waste stabilization pond that has dried up from seepage and evaporation. A white inflow pipe is revealed. Photo 4 – Hillshade Map c.2018. Topography of the three former anerobic (top), facultative (bottom), and maturation (left center) human waste stabilization ponds. In 2013 use of the ponds stopped and in 2014 remediated by the IDEM Brownfields Program.
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Photo 5 – c.2018 looking north from the Toe of the Barber Dam inside The Gateway Reserve. Partially visible are the former anerobic, facultative, and maturation stabilization ponds. Photo 6 – c. 2018 looking west along the southern fence line of The Gateway Reserve. Visible are an abandoned goatherd shed and a groundwater monitoring well.
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Photo 7 – Rubble and debris found discarded around the site. Photo 8 – Rubble and debris found discarded around the site.
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 Photo 9 – Google Earth overview of the 12 acre project area. Photo 10 – An early concept contemplating xeriscape, wetland, connecting water channels, walking paths, and a bicycling path.
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Photo 11 – Stamped and approved plans showing floodplain contour, topographic contours, and grading elevations.  Photo 12 – Stamped and approved plans for seeding and planting.
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Photo 13  May 2019 on‐site press conference (Judy Peavey‐Derr of IFPL and Mark Hofflund of ISF) announcing commencement of constructing The Gateway Reserve. Photo 14 – May 2019 early rubble and debris clearing from the site.
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Photo 15 – June 2019 looking south. Hauling both on‐site and locally harvested soils, grading, and dust control in the former anerobic human waste stabilization pond. Photo 16 – July 2019 looking north from the piezometer location at the toe‐of‐the dam. A “wall” of degraded sandstone chunks, natural river run, and 200‐mesh sandy/clayey soil can be seen advancing south and filling the former maturation human waste stabilization pond.
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Photo 17 – July 2019. A pallet of historical industrial era artifacts uncovered during grading. Bricks, logging chains, railroad rail sections, tie rods, rail spikes. Photo 18 – November 2019 looking south. Drone view of the graded and hydroseeded 12 acres. On‐site activities were put on hold for 1 year due to COVID‐19.
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Photo 19 – November 2020 looking west. Excavating and grading the wetland area in the east half of the former facultative stabilization pond. The heavy equipment is operating within a few inches of the groundwater table. Photo 20 – November 2020 looking northwest. Century old logs encountered and salvaged when excavating the wetland area. Historically, this area was underwater as it served as the log holding pond for the sawmill.
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Photo 19 – November 2020 looking west. Excavating and grading the wetland area in the east half of the former facultative stabilization pond. The heavy equipment is operating within a few inches of the groundwater table. Photo 20 – November 2020 looking northwest. Century old logs encountered and salvaged when excavating the wetland area. Historically, this area was underwater as it served as the log holding pond for the sawmill.
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Photo 21 – November 2020 looking west across the ISF Irrigation Storage Pond. Beginning to excavate the south channel adjacent to the Carnahan Glade viewpoint (left of center). Photo 22 – November 2020 looking north to Lucky Peak across the ISF Irrigation Storage Pond from the Carnahan Glade viewpoint. To the left and out of the picture are the south channel excavation activities seen in Photo 21.
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Photo 23 – November 2020 looking west along the edge of the south channel excavation toward the wetland excavation activities. Photo 24 ‐ November 2020 looking east along the edge of the completed (not yet connected) south channel excavation toward the ISF Irrigation Storage Pond.
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Photo 25 – January 2021 looking northwest across the excavated wetland area. Note the standing water and historical hydric soils indicative of the high groundwater table. Photo 26 – March 2021 looking west from within the yet‐to‐be‐filled wetland. Pete Lounsbury is surveying and placing stream gauges at correlated elevations for measuring and recording changes in surface water elevations.
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Photo 27 – March 2021 looking northwest. On the bridge, Jaydon Davis and Taylor Davis are pointing to the first of the pumped water flowing through the south channel toward the wetland. Photo 28 – March 2021 looking across the south channel from the Carnahan Glade. Taylor Davis maintaining the trash pump being used to fill the wetland (left) from the ISF Irrigation Storage Pond (right).
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Photo 29 – March 2021 looking northwest. The wetland is “filled”, the trash pump has been shut down, and the small clay “dam” between the south channel and the irrigation storage pond has been removed. Photo 30 ‐ May 2021 looking east (Yes, this is only 2 months after Photo 29). Mother Nature has taken over working on The Gateway Reserve!
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Photo 31 – September 2021 looking northwest along the wetland’s east shore. (Yes, this is only 6 months after Photo 29). ISF has also finished a successful “COVID‐managed” season of great outdoor theater! Photo 32 – May 2023 looking northwest at the north channel (partially excavated). Little Foot trying to decide if chasing a duck is really worth the trouble of getting her paws wet.
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Photo 33 ‐ May 2023. Boise artist Randy Van Dyck shows the vantage spot from which he painted his tryptic Unnatural Constructs that was selected to be display at the 2023 Leigh Yakley Woodson Art Museum “Birds in Art” show in Wausau, Wisconsin. Photo 34 – January 2024 winter from the same vantage spot as Photo 33.
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Photo 35 – PPT Slide 23 from the August 14, 2023 presentation at a public meeting held before the Ada County Commissioners in Boise, Idaho.

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