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Don’t forget, we’ve moved the blog to a new, permanent location at kealliance.org/blog. You’ll want to point your browsers and update your feeds to the new location as we will discontinue this site soon.

Also, if you like having the posts delivered to you via email, you’ll need to re-subscribe to the new blog. The subscription box is at the very bottom of our homepage

In our continuing efforts to move your attention to the new blog, we announce that a new post is now available there that will not be available here. Click over to Save the Selkirk Caribou to read it.

 

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If there’s one thing we notice in the KEA office, it is that the days on the calendar keep flying at us. Every day is a new challenge.  In the brief respite afforded by a slightly less frantic holiday week, here is a compilation of things we’ll be watching as the new year unfolds.

1. Dike Road Trees — At some point in 2012, we’re likely to learn the fate of the trees lining Rosenberry Drive. With our lawsuit, we’re hopeful that the order to remove the trees can be overturned. With our petition drive, we hope we get high-level attention from DC decision-makers. But there are other possibilities too — the City could find an alternative process or engineer a solution to allow the trees to remain on the dike. Removing the trees, we hope, is not an option in 2012.

2. Tubbs Hill — 2012 could bring wheelchair accessibility to the great Tubbs Hill. An ad hoc committee, meeting through the fall developed a consensus agreement to recommend accessibility upgrades to the east-side trail which would allow wheelchairs to access the lake views and forest experience that make the hill so spectacular.

3. Bonner County — The more extreme leanings of the Bonner County government will be further exposed early in the new year. The County Commissioners are taking aim at the designation of critical habitat for the Selkirk caribou. And the bizarre Property Rights Council is taking aim at drinking water protections. It remains to be seen whether these efforts will amount to anything more than rhetorical bluster, but the overt targeting of important environmental protections is most worrisome.

4. Forests — In early 2012, we expect to see a brand new draft forest plan for the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. The long-delayed and much anticipated plan will guide forest management for years. The new plan will address how the US Forest Service will protect wildlife habitat, watersheds, old growth forests and roadless areas. Or not.

5. Hayden Lake Project — Last summer’s successful launch of a floating treatment wetland will, we hope, lead to many more launches this summer. KEA hopes that our innovative hands-on approach to water quality improvement catches on.

6. The Legislature — as always, the new year signals that the State legislature is preparing to reconvene. With education and healthcare issues expected to dominate the headlines, and with a state budget significantly less dire than past years, perhaps the anti-environment mischief will be minimized this year. It’s tough to keep track of the day-to-day dealings of legislators from Sherman Ave. in Coeur d’Alene, so we’ll count on our friends at Idaho Conservation League to follow the machinations from their Boise offices.

7. Kootenai County Land Use Code — By the end of 2012, Kootenai County is likely to have completed the important modernization of land use and development codes. The code, which will govern development for at least a decade, has the potential to reduce controversy and increase protection of the County’s critical natural and scenic resources.

8. Community Roots — new Roots organizer Kara Carleton takes over our successful local food program this year. This year, Roots hopes to double the productivity at our charitable CSA in Dalton Gardens while expanding educational and outreach programs, continuing the cooperative efforts with Shared Harvest Community Garden, and maintaining our local food share program which has distributed almost 30,000 pounds of local fresh food to food assistance facilities in Coeur d’Alene.

9. Sustaining KEA — 2012 will be KEA’s 40th year. As the oldest conservation non-profit in Idaho, Kootenai Environmental Alliance has an extraordinary track record, so sustaining the organization in order to continue the work remains a priority. Our members and supporters have been generous with membership contributions and donations, even in these challenging economic times, but larger grants from shrinking foundations are much harder to come by. Raising the necessary funding is always hard work. Meanwhile, some 40 public events were on last year’s KEA calendar, and this year’s calendar is already filling up. Our annual meeting is coming up within the month, our 2nd annual Earth Gala just over the horizon after that. And, as always, there are “Lunch and Learn” meetings to schedule, newsletters to publish, and websites to improve…

10. What else? Well, we look forward to the new year when we’ll find out.

 

 

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So, the grand plans for McEuen Park will be rolled out to the public at a meeting at North Idaho College Thursday evening (Student Union Building, Coeur d’Alene Room, 6pm). We will be acutely interested to see how the plans will be received.

The controversial proposal eliminates most of the surface parking area and boat launch, eliminates the ball fields, and may be expensive to build and maintain. But the proposal has some striking design features and makes the park much more functional and user-friendly. Indeed, based on our preliminary review of sketches on Team McEuen’s website, there’s much to like, there’s much that could be better, and there’s a lot to be to be concerned about too.

For example, on the one hand, we are quite glad to see the proposal largely eliminates the ugly and wasteful surface parking lot. On the other hand, the replacement underground parking seems to be significantly over-supplied and it will be expensive to implement. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and better for both the park and downtown businesses to relocate the lost parking into some of the other vacant land around downtown? Wouldn’t that create more opportunities for redevelopment and foot-traffic in downtown?

We are also very concerned with the impacts on Tubbs Hill. There are a number of features that encroach upon the natural integrity of Coeur d’Alene’s significant and fiercely-protected natural landmark. Although we agree that McEuen Park could use a serious facelift, Tubbs Hill needs no enhancement and should be left alone. Rather than the design team attempting to accommodate the Park by expanding features into Tubbs Hill, we think Tubbs Hill’s clear natural boundaries should be accommodated by the Park’s design.

At the moment, we’re mostly agnostic about the boat ramp and the ball fields. One of the guiding principles of the design, supposedly, is that any amenities removed from McEuen will be relocated elsewhere to be at least as good or better. We’re open to what they will suggest. And we’re agnostic as to some of the more elaborate design flourishes. We think much will depend on how much the new park will cost to build and maintain. The burden of persuasion clearly belongs to Team McEuen, but we are hoping to be persuaded.

With a lot of people with a lot of interest in a lot of topics related to the re-design, Team McEuen will be challenged to provide for public input opportunities that the public will demand. The web page is nice, and the facebook page is engaging, but some formalized process, we think, will be necessary. We’d also like to see some supporting narrative accompanying the proposal, and some images large enough to more fully understand the details.

At this point, we look forward to the discussion. See you there Thursday night?

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As required by the Clean Water Act, the Department of Environmental Quality has just issued its draft “Integrated Report” on the state of water quality in the State of Idaho.  The utter failure of Idaho to do necessary water quality monitoring is probably the most glaring finding.

According to the draft report, of  5747 distinct waterways in Idaho, 2108 have insufficient data to determine the threshhold question of whether Clean Water Act standards are being met. That corresponds to 33,523 miles of rivers and 186,677 acres of freshwater lakes that have insufficient monitoring data or any other information on which to determine what measures, if any, are needed to protect those waterways.  The new report seems to show no improvement whatsoever from the 2008 report in which 37% of state waterways had not been assessed. Meanwhile, some 900 waterways — another 16,659 miles of rivers and 208,102 acres of freshwater lakes — are impaired but do not yet have a cleanup plan.

To put it more plainly, more than half of Idaho’s waterways are suffering from Idaho DEQ’s failure to properly administer the Clean Water Act.

But that’s not all. What about the other half? The report indicates that 1,242 waterways are, in fact, impaired and need cleanup actions to restore water quality.  In this category, there are 20,004 miles of rivers and 148,257 acres of freshwater lakes that have an approved TMDL cleanup plan.  But very little in the way of TMDL implementation is evident.

We know that Idahoans care deeply about water quality. The failure of DEQ to accomplish the very basic minimum requirements of the Clean Water Act should be unacceptable. The legislature, which has zeroed the water monitoring budget for two consecutive years, needs to provide the resources to DEQ to do its work before the U.S. EPA, or a federal court, is forced to step in.

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As uncomfortable as we are using the word “finish” in the same sentence as “comp plan,” we think the Kootenai County Commissioners are approaching the big decisions they have been putting off for almost a year now.  At the conclusion of their most recent deliberations meeting last week, the Commissioners had only a page-and-a-half left to do in their line-by-line editing of the controversial land use chapter. The Commissioners will then, finally,  need to return to the controversial issue of what range of development density is appropriate in the County’s rural areas.  Only then will they be able to turn their attention to comp plan’s land use map. 

 A major sprawl-inducing flaw in the existing comp plan (which was approved back in the mid 1990s) is that rural areas are designated with a density of one house per five acres. But this density is too dense to maintain a rural character, but not dense enough to provide suburban-level services. This density does not allow for orderly annexation and development of our cities, it will threaten our lakes and other scenic resources, will drain tax dollars to fund roads and other services to sprawling development, and it will fundamentally result in a wasteful use of land.

 The draft comprehensive plan – the one delivered to the Commissioners more than a year ago from the Planning Commission – maintains that the rural areas should be less dense – with a maximum development density of one house per ten acres, ranging to as low as one house in twenty acres.

 The Commissioners have two more deliberations scheduled – May 10th at 4pm and May 13th at 5pm. Someday soon, the important decisions will need to be made.

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Even as we refine our on-line presence (We’re on Twitter! And Facebook!) , we try not to get too caught up in click-counting here at KEA 2.0. Just as lawn signs are not a good predictor of election day outcomes, clicks are not necessarily a good indicator of commitment.

Still, we were fascinated as to why our blog’s most popular post, by far, was the one about the federal statute that created Woodsy the Owl. Well, it seems that our blog posting, for whatever reason, has made it to number one on Google if you’re searching for Woodsy Owl images.

For what it’s worth, we borrowed that particular public domain image from Wikimedia Commons. Still, we welcome the search engine traffic to our North Idaho outpost. So here are a couple more Woodsy the Owl images for our blog visitors from around the world.

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