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Archive for April, 2011

We were recently cc’ed on a copy of a new letter from the Tubbs Hill Foundation to Mayor Bloem and the Coeur d’Alene City Council regarding the ongoing McEuen Park  discussion. In the April 28 letter signed by Foundation President Peter Luttropp, the Foundation reiterates and clarifies its position on the Tubbs Hill impacts of the McEuen project, particularly the proposed trail on the upper north face of the hill. A previous letter from the Foundation had enumerated opposition to the sledding hill, the artificial water features and other intrusions, but hadn’t specifically addressed the trail. In this letter the Foundation confirms a KEA concern:

Since then, our preliminary research and on-site inspections have convinced us that construction of such a trail, as conceptualized in the McEuen plan, cannot be done without disrupting the natural state of the hill. On that basis, we would oppose such a trail.

The Foundation also goes on to affirm support for disabled access to Tubbs Hill and says:

We reaffirm our willingness and desire to work with the city and others to see that such increased ease of use is developed. We believe there is at least one viable alternative that would provide access for the disabled, access that would be far more desirable aesthetically than the proposed north face trail overlooking McEuen Field. It would also provide a richer experience for those with disabilities who would use it. 

And the Foundation echoes KEA’s strong desire to separate the Tubbs Hill issues, including the accessibility issue,  from the McEuen Park issues:

Providing more user-friendly access to Tubbs Hill is a separate issue from the redesign of McEuen Field and should be resolved in a separate process.

 The letter concludes:

The Foundation supports the vision of Tubbs Hill that is more user friendly for all members of our community while preserving the natural state of the hill. We again express our willingness to be a partner in making that vision a reality.

Count us in on that too. We think the Foundation’s position on Tubbs Hill is exactly correct. Regardless of how the McEuen project proceeds, better access for all, which also protects the natural qualities of Tubbs Hill, is worth working for.

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The Kootenai County Commissioners, this morning, in continuation of deliberations begun three weeks ago, declined to create a massive new loophole in the County’s already-weak shoreline protection regulations. Although Commissioner Todd Tondee expressed a willingness to make more aggressive changes, the Commissioners voted unanimously to make “Band-Aid” styled changes to the law rather than major transplant surgery.

KEA had been concerned that the draft changes to the County’s “Site Disturbance Ordinance” which governs development activities near waterways, proposed a sweeping exemption for activities “of such size, scale, regional economic benefit and/or nature that allowing the work to proceed is found to be in the best interests of the public.” The abject subjectivity of the exemption would have created a decision-making nightmare for the County as any large project could have been able to apply under the vaguely worded exemption. Not to mention that these potentially-huge projects would be allowed to proceed within the most important buffer strips around our waterways without much in the way of regulation and permitting. Currently, development activities within very narrow stream and shoreline buffers are highly restricted.

Commissioners Dan Green and Jai Nelson stated that they were unwilling to go that far at this point. Both Green and Nelson declared that they were not willing to create a broad new exemption now, while the development code rewrite is in the works. Green signaled he was even unwilling to give a narrower exemption to only the County’s own projects, saying that if private citizens are not granted a loophole, then the County shouldn’t get one either.

The Commissioners all agreed, however, to make narrower “Band-Aid” changes. It will now be easier for landowners to use mechanical equipment and to work in the narrow shoreline buffer strips when necessary to repair or address erosion, soil instability, or stream bank stabilization. This new flexibility should actually make it easier to fix, or maybe even prevent, problems with properties that would otherwise threaten water quality.

All in all, very good news from the County this morning.

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On Friday, Earth Day, friends and members of Kootenai Environmental Alliance will be celebrating at our first annual, and SOLD OUTEarth Gala at the Hayden Lake Country Club.  Not just celebrating the Earth, we will also be celebrating some great citizens who help us protect what makes North Idaho a wonderful place to live and work and play. Here is the second of two posts on our awardees.

KEA's Korrine Kreilkamp at Roots meeting at Art Spirit Gallery, photo by KEA BlackberryCam

As one of our Board members put it last month, “if Korrine Kreilkamp isn’t honored with an award this year, there’s something terribly wrong.”  The Board member is right, and nothing is wrong, Korrine Kreilkamp is being honored with our first “Young Environmentalist” award for her amazing work on KEA’s Community Roots program. Started in 2007, Roots has grown into a dynamic and innovative local food movement. First, in 2007, Korrine organized the Roots Local Food Share, assisting local backyard gardeners and small farmers donate fresh produce to local food assistance facilities. Then, Korrine was instrumental in the partnership at Shared Harvest to create Coeur d’Alene’s first community garden — with a portion of the garden and a portion of the harvest going to the Community Roots local food share effort. And now, Korrine is coordinating the second growing season at Roots CSA in Dalton Gardens, the region’s first and only charitable CSA.  She’s done the fundraising, the outreach, the volunteer recruitment, and she’s turned more than a few shovelfuls of dirt. We’re pleased and proud she’s working with us at KEA.

The Art Spirit Gallery

Also, for the first time, we are presenting a Business Award for their commitment to the environment, the community and to KEA. And our first award winner, the Art Spirit Gallery, deserves the recognition. An early sponsor of our now-famous Junk2Funk fall fashion event, Art Spirit helped foster a connection between the arts community and the conservation community that will make both communities stronger.

Steve Gibbs

Always and enthusiastically supportive of our efforts — in ways large and small — Art Spirit Gallery and proprietor Steve Gibbs are generous in their time, their donations, and their gorgeous gallery setting. We’re pleased to honor the excellent Art Spirit Gallery for their excellent support.


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On Friday, Earth Day, friends and members of Kootenai Environmental Alliance will be celebrating at our first annual Earth Gala at the Hayden Lake Country Club.  Not just celebrating the Earth, we will also be celebrating some great citizens who help us protect what makes North Idaho a wonderful place to live and work and play. Here is the first of two posts on our awardees.

Scott Reed and Art Manley

Since 1994. KEA has awarded the Art Manley Environmentalist Award to someone for sustained efforts in furtherance of our mission: “to conserve, protect and restore the environment in North Idaho with a particular emphasis on the Coeur d’Alene basin.” Named for our founder, former state senator and dedicated conservationist Art Manley, the award this year goes to Julie Dalsaso. An all-star volunteer, Julie is positively dedicated to the Coeur d’Alene basin and working on its many complicated environmental problems.

Julie Dalsaso

There is not a governmental agency in Idaho that hasn’t receive a letter from her or heard from her at a hearing. Julie is passionate about protecting water quality in our lakes, protecting our shorelines from contamination, and protecting waterways like Cougar Bay for quiet recreation. Her hard work is tenacious and her commitment is extraordinary.

Also this year, we are inaugurating a new award, named for Scott and Mary Lou Reed, also founding members of our organization. The Reeds – Scott, a universally well-respected lawyer in Coeur d’Alene, Mary Lou a former State Senator and all-purpose community activist (both winners of the Art Manley Award, by the way) – are recognized for their principled defense of our environment and our community through action.

Pter Grubb

So it is appropriate that the first Reed award goes to Peter Grubb, owner and operator of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene. Peter has always been committed to environmental causes, is involved with a number of Idaho conservation efforts and organizations, and he has been very active locally. Peter and ROW joined the KEA effort to protect Cougar Bay for quiet recreation – and demonstrating the value of the Bay with kayak tours. But Peter was also a leading plaintiff in the court battle with Idaho Department of Transportation over the megaloads that are clogging the Lochsa-Clearwater Wild and Scenic River corridor. Peter’s willingness to stand up to the oil giants was inspiring, but also true to his nature.

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Interns Wanted

It is almost the summer intern season, and we’re looking for a few good ones to help us out this year.

More specifically, we are looking for motivated, reliable, and energetic summer interns who would like to gain hands-on experience with community outreach, marketing, non-profit events, and conservation research and advocacy. The internships would be unpaid, but we will provide a great summer experience, a great working environment, and flexible part-time or full-time hours. No experience necessary, but good writing and communication skills are certainly preferred, some college preferred but not necessary, and a strong commitment to our environmental mission is essential. If you are looking to get involved in an environmental non-profit, gain valuable experience, and give back to the community, we want to hear from you.

How to Apply: send a letter of interest and resume to KEA@kealliance.org by May 15.

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The estimated costs for McEuen Park were released this morning and, not surprisingly, a huge hunk of the costs for the park are in the parking facility. We still think this is both unfortunate and unnecessary. The total McEuen project costs, according to the released estimates (pdf), range from $23.8 million to $28.0 million.

Although drowned out by noisier complaints about the boat launch (and maybe to a lesser extent Tubbs Hill), the design of the Front Avenue parking facility remains a big gripe of ours. It provides an oversupply of parking, in the wrong location, and in a manner that physically and visually separates downtown from the park and lakefront.  Now that the cost figures have been released, the problems are even more clear.

Team McEuen estimates Front Avenue parking to cost from $7.0 million to $8.3 million and other Front Avenue improvements to cost from $1.2 million to $1.4 million. In other words, Front Avenue and its parking consumes about one third of the cost of the entire project. Moreover, these costs do not include a second below-street  “Centennial Level” of parking, which has been shown on previous Team McEuen illustrations (as shown above). This newly “alternate” lowest level of parking would add another $5.5 million to $6.5 million.

A better, cheaper, and more functional location for downtown and McEuen parking is not under Front Avenue, but on vacant and underutilized properties north of Sherman. Construction and design costs are likely to be much lower, and the more central location would be much better for the future economic development purposes of downtown. We think the investment in improvements to McEuen Park are worth doing, but only if the investments are in the park itself, not a parking facility.

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Idaho and Montana wolves have had a pretty tough week. First, the wolf-panicked Idaho legislature authorized the Governor to take “disaster emergency” actions.  Then, the wolves were a subject of one of the few “policy riders” to survive the government shutdown budget brinksmanship. And on Saturday, even though it may not matter anymore, Judge Malloy in Montana tossed the proposed settlement of the continuing litigation over delisting the wolves from Endangered Species Act protections in the Northern Rockies.

What does it all mean? It’s maybe too early to say, but odds on a wolf hunt this fall are certainly not as long as they were a couple of days ago.

Here’s some of what we’ve been reading about it all:

Idaho legislature passes “wolf disaster emergency” legislation, making westerners look like wimps — Idaho Mountain Express

An editorial about the legislature’s not-exactly-scientific approach to wolves  — Idaho Statesman

Judge Malloy declines to accept the proposed settlement. — Idaho Statesman

The actual Malloy opinion, linked here,  is well-written and fascinating reading. (All the legal arguments, from all the parties, are linked here.)  — via Wildlife News

All that work by Judge Malloy may soon be moot.  The wolf rider is still attached to the federal budget resolution.  — Spokesman Review

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