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Archive for February, 2010

The League of Conservation Voters just released its 2009 scorecard, grading Congress on environmental votes. As is sadly not unexpected, the Idaho Congressional delegation did poorly. On a 0-100% scale:

Sen. Mike Crapo = 18%

Sen. Jim Risch = 18%

Rep. Walt Minnick = 43%

Rep. Mike Simpson = 21%

However, to look on the (barely) bright side, in a delegation rated among the most conservative in the U.S. by the National Journal, Idaho’s Congressional representatives weren’t the very worst environmentally. In the U.S. Senate, seven delegations scored below 10% (Oklahoma, South Carolina, Kentucky, Arizona, Georgia, Texas and Wyoming). In the U.S. House, four delegations scored below 20% (Wyoming, Montana, Oklahoma, and Nebraska)

Partly, this is due to the universal support the Idaho delegation gave to the omnibus public lands bill which, among many other things, created the Owyhee wilderness in Southern Idaho — the result of a long collaborative effort. 

LCV scored Congress on votes on top priority votes on clean energy and global warming, but also public lands, water quantity and quality, forest management, offshore drilling, wildlife conservation at home and abroad, chemical security and population.

There’s always next year…

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Wolves and wildlife, wilderness, water … and politics:

The wolf debate in detail — National Geographic

Removing old roads in forests helps with climate — Wilderness Society

U.S. using less water, Idaho still using quite a bit — EcoBlue

To be truly smart, where “smart growth” should go  — NRDC Swithchboard

League of Conservation Voters just released the congressional scorecard for 2009 (more on this soon) — LCV

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We understand that the Washington State Department of Ecology has issued a TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) for dissolved oxygen in the Spokane River late today.  (Late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend?  What are we to take from that?) You may recall that the Gonzaga Environmental Law Clinic prepared comments for KEA on the proposal last fall. 

 The river has had a serious problem with a lack of dissolved oxygen choking off parts of the river and resulting in large blooms of blue-green algae. The TMDL is required under the Clean Water Act to essentially put the river on a pollution budget, and all of the contributors to the pollution are supposed to do their part. Because it won’t be easy, the process of coming up with the pollution budget on the Spokane River has take some 11 years or so to get to this point. 

 Look for more information on the blog in the near future, as we learn more about the details of this long-awaited TMDL. The document is available for download here.

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This posting courtesy of KEA staffer Julie Vanmiddlesworth:

 The 9th annual Lakes Conference held last Saturday at Spokane Community College revealed that many of Idaho and Washington’s lakes are plagued by common problems. Invasive species and high nutrient levels are degrading the waters of many of our beloved lakes.

 Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper advocated for a wider approach to Milfoil control in Lake Pend Oreille, which has been limited mainly to the application of herbicides. Considering the limited success of herbicide application in Liberty Lake and Lake Pend Oreille, it seems that innovative, dynamic solutions such as altering lake levels to expose infested areas during cold winter months, hand harvesting, bottom barriers, nutrient reduction and isolated mass removal should play a larger role in the fight to control milfoil.

 Hayden Lake is also in deep trouble. “The Hayden lake Project”, a documentary video produced by United Citizens for Responsible Growth, Inc. documents the impacts from elevated phosphorous levels in the Lake. Logging, development, unmaintained septic systems, overuse of our water resources, motorized boat traffic, ashes from campfires and forest fires, dishwashing detergent and fertilizer all contribute to the phosphorous load. Algae blooms, swimmer’s itch and degraded fisheries are a result. The documentary was well received, although many of the conference participants know these problems all too well.

 Can we refine our choices and consume less? Less land, less timber, purchase phosphate-free dishwashing detergent and fertilizer…. we may end up with pea green soup rather than clear, blue lakes if we do not.

 “The Hayden Lake Project” will be screened this Thursday at the regular noon meeting at the Iron Horse. DVDs can be purchased at the Kootenai Environmental Alliance office for a mere $15.00.

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       At yesterday’s most recent deliberation of the draft comprehensive plan by the Board of County Commissioners – the only one scheduled for the entire month of February – the Commissioners were faced squarely with one of the central decisions embedded in the draft plan: What density of development should be allowed in our rural areas?

        Yet, when the decision point arose, Chairman Rick Currie kicked the can down the road.  “We’ll deal with densities later,” he said, and the Commissioners continued on with their seemingly endless and mostly inconsequential wordsmithing.

        Unfortunately, Currie’s decision to not decide, coupled with the Commissioners’ impossibly slow deliberation, appears to be consciously calibrated to the upcoming election cycle.  It is painfully obvious that the deliberations will not be completed before the primary election this spring.

        However, after nine months of deliberation, citizens of Kootenai County are entitled to know where the Commissioners stand.  On the single most important decision these commissioners will make for the future of development in the County:  Are we going to allow sprawl-causing development densities throughout our rural areas or not? Are we going to protect our natural and scenic landscape or not?  Will we ever get on with the process of re-working hopelessly outdated zoning code or not? 

        At this point, prior to facing voters in primary elections, ducking the issue is as bad as making the wrong choice on development densities. The deliberations have been a long, slow, and epic failure of leadership.  

        The Commissioners meet again March 3rd.

        UPDATE 2/20: As a commenter points out, the deliberation schedule has been recently changed and the next deliberation has been moved up to March 2nd, at 11 AM.

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It’s been busy here in the KEA offices — too busy to post as regularly as we’d like — but here are some articles of interest:

What does the Obama budget mean for the environment? NRDC experts break it down  — NRDC Switchboard

Woody biomass electricity generator to replace paper mill?  — New West

Wolf population stops growing in Northern Rockies. — NRDC Switchboard

Our friends at ICL sue to protect Frank Church Wilderness from helicopter landings. — Idaho Conservation League

Idaho DEQ water monitoring budget wiped out. — Magic Valley Times News and Idaho Statesman

Why stormwater needs tighter regulation. An amazing view of my old neighborhood from space. — Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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