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Archive for November, 2009

Between the cholesterol and carbs:

Idaho’s utterly embarrassing predator derby exposed here, here and here.

Agency cynicism makes the wolf debate much worse – NRDC Switchboard.

Why the decline in public concern on climate change? – Yale Environment 360.

Supreme Court to review legal twist to takings doctrine – Washington Post.

Tester’s Montana wilderness bill — support it or not? – New West Boise.

 

 

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At their excellent website, the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness have an interesting and optimistic glass-half-full take on the recent convening of a “Panhandle Collaborative” to discuss lands and forestry issues in our northern region. The brainchild of Congressman Walt Minnick, the collaborative will attempt, maybe, to sort through the many issues with many stakeholders to come up with some way forward on wilderness, forests, and economic development issues that have been extraordinarily tough to navigate in the past. 

KEA attended the Monday meeting in Sandpoint, and we’re still sorting out our current levels of optimism. But we certainly hope, like our wilderness advocates just north of here, that the momentum and support for the Scotchman Peaks wilderness will not be sidetracked by the many other issues that the collaborative will need to sort through.

UPDATE 11/23 :  Check out the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks no-nonsense (but still optimistic) take on the prospects on the Montana side of the border.

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Newsletters

Hey non-members:

Our Autumn 2009 newsletter is available on our website here.

And our recent email newsletter is available here.

If you were a member, you’d have your copies by now.

 

 

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The Kootenai County Commissioners continue their lengthy deliberations on the Comprehensive Plan this coming Monday, and they are at a crucial moment. It isn’t over-stating it to say that the fate of the rural landscape is now in their hands. Your calls and emails could be helpful.

KEA members and interested individuals are strongly encouraged to contact members of the Board this week, to urge them to take action to prevent sprawl and maintain strong protections for our rural landscape.

Kootenai Environmental Alliance has been tracking the Comp Plan’s public process for several years now. Our interests, of course, are in the protection of the public health, protection of the natural environment, and the promotion of sustainable development in Kootenai County.  As of this week, the Comp Plan’s overarching goals — to direct development to areas of the county better able to sustain it, to provide greater protections to our rural areas, and to direct development away from open space and sensitive areas – are squarely before the Board of Commissioners for their decision. At their last meeting, the Commissioners decided to avoid a direct decision on the appropriate densities for rural land use. But the decision cannot be avoided forever.

Currently, the draft Comprehensive Plan describes a density for the “rural” land use designation to be one housing unit (or equivalent) per 10 to 20 acres. We support the Comp Plan’s rural density designation as an absolute minimum. Indeed, by its very definition, a truly rural land use designation would maintain a very low density for new development.  The Plan’s 10 to 20 acre designation is consistent with rural protection densities used throughout the United States and it will provide greater protection for the rural lands of the county than currently exists. 

The so-called “Citizens for Balance,” a powerful group of builders and business interests, however, have argued for allowing much denser development in our rural areas.  The problem is that development densities of 1 unit for every 3 to 10 acres are far too dense for most agricultural and traditionally rural purposes, and are not dense enough for supplying efficient services to modern residential developments.  This 3-10 acre range is precisely the sprawl-inducing, leap-frog-development-encouraging, landscape-ruining designation the Commissioners absolutely need to avoid. Taking this approach would contradict the overarching goals of the plan and the clear community-expressed preference for a clear and discrete boundary between what is rural and what is to be developed.

Commissioner Todd Tondee has been outspoken in his support for stronger rural protections, but he needs at least another vote on the Board to pass a strong plan. Please consider sending an email, a letter, or placing a phone call to the Commissioners this week (before their deliberation session this coming Monday) to express your support for better rural protection in the new Comprehensive Plan, and to support the 10-20 acre densities for rural land use designations in the current draft of the Comprehensive Plan. Act now to keep our rural lands rural.

 Contact Commissioners:  Todd Tondee, Rick Currie, Rich Piazza

451 Government Way, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho 83814

kcbocc@kcgov.us, (208) 446-1600

 

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Snow on the ground, fresh coffee in the pot, and the paper versions of the Spokesman-Review and New York Times this Sunday morning.  Resting up from a busy week at KEA and getting ready for another one, here are some electronic readings from the past busy week.

Restructuring of the North Idaho economy underway — New West

North American cooperation on wilderness — Idaho Conservation League

Land use in the new energy age: solar rights — Land Use Prof Blog

Idaho State House, the only one heated geothermally — Idaho Conservation League

“Green spaces can make people nicer” — NRDC Switchboard

Support the Community Gardens Act of 2009 — Communitygarden.org

 

 

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At the brand new KEA book club, it’s Richard Louv’s book, “Last Child in the Woods,” but here are some other recent articles of interest:

– A technical discussion of the Spokane River TMDL issue — Marten Law Group

– How to talk to climate skeptics – answers for anti-scientists — Scienceblogs

– Financial difficulties in small local environmental groups — Miami Herald

– What happens in Idaho when development isn’t well planned — Idaho Statesman

 

 

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Downtown Post Falls

Spokane River through downtown Post Falls

At the end of October, Kootenai Environmental Alliance submitted some 21 pages of complex and technical comments to Washington’s Department of Ecology on the proposed plan to establish TMDLs (Total Maximum Daily Loads) for the polluted Spokane River.

Under the Clean Water Act, TMDLs need to be established in order to allocate the maximum levels of pollutants that the waterbody can handle. In the Spokane River’s case, the problem is that portions of the river have serious problems with dissolved oxygen, and the cause of the dissolved oxygen problem is phosphorous pollution.

The State of Washington has been working on the TMDL for the Spokane River for almost 11 years. The TMDL will apply to Idaho, because Idaho sewage treatment plants discharge into the Spokane River, and according to the Clean Water Act, upstream dischargers cannot contribute to downstream water quality violations. 

Gonzaga Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic drafted the comments on behalf of KEA and several individuals living near Long Lake in Washington (available on KEA’s website). There, the phosphorous pollution has caused not only the serious dissolved oxygen problems, but this past summer, the Lake suffered huge blooms of toxic blue-green algae. (More here.)

The proposed TMDL purports to allocate phosphorous levels to the many sources of pollution to the River such that the water quality standards for dissolved oxygen will not be violated. The TMDL is supposed to account for stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, leaky septic systems, industrial polluters, and sewage treatment plants to limit phosphorous to acceptable levels.

Long_Lake_Dam

Long Lake Dam -- Initial Construction 1915

The fundamental problem, in KEA’s view, is that the draft TMDL doesn’t allocate the phosphorous pollution appropriately and therefore fails to provide any assurance that the dissolved oxygen problem will actually be solved. For example, the draft TMDL relies on unreasonable levels for pollution levels in tributaries, and it relies on Avista to make operational changes at its dams to get unrealistic dissolved oxygen improvements. KEA is urging the State of Washington to recalculate the TMDLs to more realistic and supportable levels, so that permit limits can be assigned to polluters, so that the process of cleaning up the River can finally get started in earnest.

The TMDL is controversial for the polluters too.  Idaho dischargers are worried that tough new standards will be difficult and expensive to meet, even under the draft currently being considered. Spokane-area industrial dischargers have similar concerns. Meanwhile, a new Spokane sewage treatment plant may have a difficult time being permitted at all.

But if the region is to continue using the Spokane River to dump our wastewater, the phosphorous will need to be cleaned up.  All the mathematical hocus-pocus in the world doesn’t change that.

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