During the 1990s, the soaking pools and water delivery system were constructed with the use of piping and concrete on public lands without authorization and are considered in trespass. It is BLM policy to identify and remove any unauthorized construction on public lands.
Over the last five years, local county and BLM law enforcement officers have responded to more than 125 incidents associated with activities occurring at Skinny Dipper Hot Springs and the adjacent parking area. These incidents include under-age drinking, illegal drug use, vehicle break-ins, theft, sexual assault and two separate deaths.
Bio-hazardous materials (discarded hypodermic needles, human feces) are commonly found in the area. The hot springs flow into the South Fork Payette River, which creates the potential for environmental contamination. State officials have expressed concern about water quality.
In April 2012, BLM received an email from Central District Health (Idaho Health District 4) about Skinny Dipper Hot Springs. Central District Health’s concerns referenced sewage disposal at the site. They “noticed the large volume of users at this site both day and night without a convenient port a potty or vault privy to use.” In addition, BLM found a makeshift toilet inside a burned-out tree approximately 300 feet east of the hot springs with no containment system.
In May 2012, BLM issued a temporary night-time closure of the area to address these public safety and health issues. The BLM Boise District and FRFO staff reached out to the hot springs users to find a solution to allow for the continued use of the hot springs while addressing the issues identified in an environmental assessment (EA) completed in 2015.
Several options were proposed by the BLM, such as a special use permit; however, no individual or group of individuals was willing to apply for a permit in order to remedy the resource damage or public health and safety issues.
Maps of the closed area, the EA, Finding of No Significant Impact and Decision Record are available upon request at the Boise District Office at 3948 Development Avenue, Boise, ID 83705 and on the BLM National Environmental Policy Act Register at on.doi.gov/1OMTuse .
“Public health and safety is my primary concern,” said Tate Fischer, FRFO Field Manager. “The unauthorized use of the public lands through construction of soaking pools has created public health and safety issues that we have not been able to mitigate. We have proactively reached out to the users to work with them to develop an alternative solution; however, the alternatives presented to us did not address the unauthorized development or provide a viable solution to address the public health and safety issues.”
Any person adversely affected by this decision may appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals, Office of the Secretary, in accordance with the regulations contained in 43 CFR Part 4. A notice of appeal and/or a petition for stay must be filed by May 28, 2015.
The public is being asked to comply with all posted signs and closures. Questions about the closure can be directed to the BLM Boise District Office at 208-384-3300. To learn more about where to enjoy other Idaho hot springs, contact the BLM or visit www.blm.gov or http://www.idahohotsprings.com/.
Any person who violates the closure may be tried before a United States Magistrate and fined no more than $1,000, imprisoned for no more than 12 months, or both. Violators may also be subject to the enhanced fines provided for in 18 U.S.C. 3571.