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Posts Tagged ‘Coeur d’Alene River’

It’s the end of 2011 and so we take quantitative stock of what we’ve accomplished in the last 52 weeks. The following are the most-viewed blog posts of 2011, which are actually quite representative of the issue work we’ve done over the last year. When it comes to North Idaho conservation controversies, from Bonner County craziness to messes in the Coeur d’Alene basin, from Tubbs Hill trails to the trees on the Dike Road, you can count on KEA to be in the middle of it.

For 10th place, remarkably, an exact tie:

10. the heartwarming Homeless Osprey Homeless No More and less heartwarming  The Sacketts’ Wetland Mapped

The rest of the top 10:

9. Coeur d’Alene City Council Signals Stronger Stand on Dike Road Trees

8. Bonner County Approves Priest Lake Subdivision

7. New “Property Rights Council” Brings Messy Ideological Extremism to Bonner County Government

6. New Mini-Megaloads Proposed To Be Routed Through Coeur d’Alene on Hwy 95

5. Wheelchairs on Tubbs Hill

4. Coeur d’Alene Basin Pipeline Spill?

3. January Flooding May Have Caused the Worst Coeur d’Alene Basin Contamination in Years

2. What The Priest Lake Wetland Case Is Actually About

And not that surprisingly, out top post for 2011 is:

1. Saving the Dike Road Trees   

But in an important footnote, it turns out that the blog post that actually got the most hits in 2011 dates from December 2009 and is therefore disqualified from this end-of-year list.  Showing the immense power of search engines, our timelessly informative posting about the legal status of Woodsy the Owl remains undefeated — the article, “The owl is required to be fanciful and must wear slacks,” and consequent downloads of the ridiculous public-domain illustration of Woodsy Owl, again got more views in 2011 than any other KEA blog post. However, for whatever reason, the search engines stopped sending so much Woodsy Owl traffic in mid-summer. Evidently, some other web presence (Wikipedia, we think) is now the chief authority for all things Woodsy.

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As the cleanup of mine waste contamination in the Coeur d’Alene River basin moves ever-so-slowly downstream, government agencies are beginning to prepare. Studies are being done, computer models assembled, and basic data gathering is well underway. In response, some citizens are also coming together to make sure that community input is not forgotten.

At an initial exploratory meeting October 18th, community members and agency officials gathered at the Rose Lake Historical Society to discuss collaboration as a new way forward. In a facilitated discussion, local residents, farmers, ranchers, conservation and environmental interests, homeowner associations, agency officials got a very quick briefing on the environmental cleanup problems in the lower Coeur d’Alene and then considered whether more formal collaboration was worth pursuing.

Collaboration is used increasingly nationwide for complex, multi-stakeholder conservation problems, such as land management, forestry, and environmental cleanup. The process is designed to facilitate information exchange and to find common ground.

Susan Mitchell and Julie Bowen in Rose Lake. Photo by KEA BlackberryCam

At the Rose Lake meeting, community members raised a number of questions and concerns and areas for further discussion: What are the early opportunities for community involvement in the cleanup? How do we know which cleanup options are on the table and which cleanup options are being eliminated? What agencies are responsible for flood control decision-making in the lower basin? What about new repositories? Are agencies looking at innovative cleanup technologies? What sorts of rules, regulations and standards apply to the cleanup? What can agencies other than EPA contribute to the cleanup?

In mid-November, the Basin Environmental Improvement Project Commission (BEIPC), which manages the cleanup, will decide whether to allow the new collaborative to be established under its organizational umbrella.

We think the BEIPC – itself a creature of Idaho state law that infused local representation and input into the federal Superfund process – should show strong support for the collaborative.  Especially after the very encouraging meeting in Rose Lake.

The thoughtful ideas from local residents in the lower Coeur d’Alene basin should be encouraged and facilitated. Moreover, without early community involvement, alternatives may be narrowed, options eliminated, and opportunities lost. The collaboration establishes a venue and a process for meaningful engagement with the citizens who will live with the cleanup for years and will feel the impact most directly. This grassroots call for collaboration in the lower basin should be answered by the BEIPC Commissioners with a resounding yes.

 

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Superfund cleanup isn’t limited to the Silver Valley. The Coeur d’Alene River, the chain lakes and wetlands from Cataldo to Harrison are contaminated with heavy metals from the last century of mining upstream. Every flood season, another layer of contamination is deposited throughout the drainage.

The EPA, charged with the cleanup responsibilities, is in the process of finalizing a controversial plan for the upper basin, but the next area slated for cleanup is the lower Coeur d’Alene River basin from Cataldo to Harrison.  In fact, EPA has begun initial studies on the ways contaminated sediment moves in the Coeur d’Alene River and lower basin waterways and wetlands. Based on the scientific and engineering studies, and as constrained by Superfund laws, EPA will develop a comprehensive cleanup plan for the lower basin over the course of the next several years.

KEA has been part of a small group meeting since May 2010 to develop a better way for citizens, stakeholders, and agencies to work together on cleanup in the Lower Basin.  We’ve created the Lower Basin Citizen Collaborative.

Why a Collaborative?

In a lower basin cleanup, there will be a wide range of interests and values to be weighed and considered: public health, wildlife protection, recreation, private property rights and land-use planning, watershed protection and restoration, cultural resources, job preservation and creation, economic development, and water quality and fisheries.  All of these will need to be weighed in a context that should include sufficient public education, meaningful public involvement, and science-based and evidence-based decision making by the agencies.

Collaboratives provide a way to address controversial natural resource issues, making sure everyone has a seat at the table. In many locations in the U.S., they are achieving broad citizen, stakeholder, and agency satisfaction. This collaborative model is currently used in Shoshone County and elsewhere in Idaho for forest and land management and collaboratives are now being used or proposed in other parts of the country for land management and complex environmental problems.

In our envisioning of the collaborative process for the lower basin, everyone is invited to engage early in the process. Competing interests work out consensus-based solutions together. Participants work for outcomes that meet or exceed federal and state regulations, and agencies shift their focus to connect with, rather than direct, the collaborative effort.  In theory, if stakeholders work together, cleanup decisions can be made with everyone’s interests considered. Rather than agency decisions being handed down unilaterally, collaboratives work toward outcomes that everyone feels they can live with.

Collaboratives can be controversial, they don’t always work, and they’re not always appropriate. However, this cleanup in the lower basin will be extremely complex and will have a significant impact on the landscape. In this instance, we believe local voices involved in the planning from the beginning will make for a better cleanup. And we believe a collaborative will be the best venue to engage the local voices.

Reaching Out

The Lower Basin Collaborative is ready to launch and we invite your participation. A kickoff meeting will be held next Tuesday, the 18th, 2:30 pm, at the Rose Lake Historical Society Building, 14917 S. Queen Street & Hwy. 3 in Cataldo.  If you want to know more or be involved at any level, let us hear from you. Write us at LowerBasinCollaborative@gmail.com.  Stay up to date at lowerbasincollaborative.wordpress.com.

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It’s been a week since Conoco-Phillips says they noticed a “drop in pressure” in their gasoline pipeline between Billings and Spokane. And we’re still waiting for an explanation.

Booms are in the Coeur d’Alene River. Workers in hard hats and pickup trucks are thick in the Enaville to Cataldo stretch of pipeline in question. Promises of testing and inspection and results have been issued, but we’re still waiting for results. Even if there’s no leak and the whole “loss of pressure” thing is some sort of unfortunate technological false alarm, it shouldn’t take a week to figure it out.

Lately, we’ve heard from several nearby residents now that cleanup workers and their “security” are hard-line and tight-lipped about what is happening along the possibly leaky pipeline. We understand that it must be frustrating to the company that it can’t find the problem, but it’s even more frustrating to the nearby public. Indeed, information has been lacking from the beginning. When did the company and responsible agencies plan to tell the public? KEA, from what we can tell, was first to break the news.

We’re certainly hoping that whatever the problem is, it isn’t catastrophic. Still, and regardless, this whole situation is not acceptable. Under no circumstance should it take a week to diagnose a gasoline pipeline problem.

 

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From an update we received this morning, it seems they still haven’t found a spill but still haven’t found the problem in the pipeline yet either. According to this EPA update, there are some 3000 barrels of oil in the suspect section of pipeline.

CURRENT STATUS:   At this time, no loss of pipeline integrity has been discovered, to date.  The crews have completed surface and aerial reconnaissance of a 7 mile section of pipeline between Enaville, ID and Cataldo, ID with no evidence of a leak discovered.  Based on the latest information, crews have isolated the pressure drop to this 7 mile section of pipeline and is concentrating their investigation efforts in this location.

Five surface reconnaissance crews and two aerial reconnaissance sorties were deployed today.  The responsible party estimates that approximately 3,091 barrels of unleaded gasoline still remain in the suspect section of the pipe (7 mile stretch).  The responsible party has approximately 80 personnel in the field conducting command and control and reconnaissance with crews ready to initiate emergency response and sampling, if needed.

NEXT STEPS:  An acoustic mission ball (tool to check pipe integrity) is being shipped to the site and will be deployed tomorrow.  This device will be launched in the pipeline and will acoustically listen for leaks as it travels through the suspect section.  The timeline for the deployment of the acoustic survey instrument is approximately tomorrow afternoon.  Transit time will be approximately 15 hours with preliminary data being available from the tool sometime midday Friday, 7 October 2011.

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We thought the Yellowstone River oil spill this past summer was a little close for comfort. Well, guess what. We got word late yesterday afternoon, with some additional information trickling in to us today that a 10-inch Conoco-Phillips pipeline, pumping unleaded gasoline from Billings to Spokane is suffering a “slow drop in pressure” somewhere between Pritchard and Cataldo.  The current focus of attention is in the Enaville to Cataldo stretch.

From an email from Sandy Von Behren in Kootenai County’s Department of Emergency Management:

Yellowstone Pipeline (Conoco/Phillips) identified a small reduction in pressure in their 10” high pressure petroleum pipeline between Prichard and Cataldo this past Saturday.  Yellowstone reps have walked the entire line between Prichard and Cataldo and have not located any indication of the leak on the surface.  There are a couple of areas where the pipeline is exposed in the Coeur d’Alene River, but they were aware of this before and had sought permits to mitigate that particular issue. 

They are currently in full response running 24-7 operations with an estimated 40 staff in place and another 40 coming this way.  They plan to purge the line of fuel and place a pig (a pipeline inspection gauge) in the pipeline using water to propel it as they continue to assess for any leakage.  If they do not find any leakage they may have to start digging up the pipeline in the area of concern.  They have placed skirting and absorbent booms as a precautionary measure in the Coeur d’Alene River just below the community of Kingston and also at the Cataldo boat launch.  Yellowstone Pipeline is setting up a command post this afternoon at the Silver Mountain Resort.

An update this morning from DEQ states:

 Saturday the [Conoco-Philips] control center noted a slow drop in pressure in a 10 inch pipeline carrying unleaded gasoline between Prichard and Cataldo.  C-P responded by lowering the pressure in the line from 900 psi to less than 400 psi where it currently remains. 

C-P has monitors watching the river crossings.  A containment boom has been placed at Cataldo below the boat launch and along River Road at Kingston.  C-P currently is aware of two pipeline exposures in the river, one near Silver Bridge on the NF CdA River and one that was discovered last week at Kingston.  The Silver Bridge exposure has grout bags draped over the pipe until a more permanent fix is done next year.  The other exposure remains as it was found. 

The area of interest is now between Enaville and Cataldo.

 

Here’s hoping we don’t have (another) huge mess on our hands in the Coeur d’Alene basin.

 

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Seems the Yellowstone River will be dealing with what the Gulf of Mexico has been dealing with for more than a year now. And we are again reminded that that cleaning things up is so much harder than not making the mess in the first place.

This time, the still-high Yellowstone River flows are illustrating how pollutants are transported far downstream making a mess on shorelines for miles and miles. Sound familiar? The Yellowstone River is facing this one-time high-water catastrophe, with a deep-pocketed responsible party, and an oil pollutant, much of which will disperse and simply evaporate.  Our Coeur d’Alene River gets tons of mining waste every flood, with heavy metal pollutants that don’t disperse and never go away.

With our local cleanup going into a third decade, with at least five more decades of cleanup to go, we are heartbroken for the Yellowstone River and our friends in Montana. Sadly, we know what it’s like.

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