Friday, March 27, 2015

P and Z “shootin’ for May” to finish amendments to city zoning ordinance

By Elizabeth Morgan

At the regular meeting for Planning and Zoning (P&Z) on March 17, commissioners focused on wrapping up the last few modifications for the final draft to submit to the council and eventually, to present at a public hearing. The general consensus of those present was “to shoot for May to finish it up.”

The changes have been discussed, modified and re-modified over the past year as to how best plan for future growth in zone designated as C-2. There are several different areas marked as C-2 throughout the town and on Riverside, but one area in particular comes to mind when setting the pace for C-2 zoning

Unique because the street serves as a main thoroughfare through Orofino, Michigan Ave. is currently zoned C-2 a commercial zone with many exceptions, a mix of businesses, single family dwellings, churches, and a school.

Lot sizes are certainly varied from 4,800 to 6,000 and beyond. Commissioners have determined to allow the size of the lot to be indicative of the type of business and parking requirements permitted.

Building Official Todd Perry felt it would be necessary to finish revising the wording and review a couple items with the city’s attorney before the new document is ready to share with the public at a public hearing.

Commissioners are looking forward to finally getting the proposed changes on paper, as they have muddled through several different copies of an old version amongst them, which at times, added to the confusion.

P and Z is still seeking to fill two vacancies on the board. Meetings are held the third Tuesday of every month at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers. Interested applicants are invited to inquire further information at City Hall.

Communities unite to end sexual violence

During the month of April, in honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month, YWCA organizers along with members of the Sexual Assault Response Team invite all local community members to participate in joining together to raise awareness about sexual violence. 

Sexual Assault Awareness Month’s events include the hanging of teal colored ribbons in downtown Orofino on Monday, March 30. This will be done by the local chapter of the YWCA, along with members of the police and sheriff’s department and other volunteers to increase awareness of the problem of sexual assault. 

Coffee shops will also be provided with information labels to put on coffee cups and putting table cards in local restaurants to provide information about this problem.

The month will end with “Denim Day” which symbolizes our solidarity with sexual assault victims and our commitment to their defense and support. This is in response to a rape case several years ago in which the judge ruled that since jeans cannot be removed without the help of the wearer, the rape victim must have consented.

Wearing jeans on this day is our statement that all people deserve to be safe from sexual assault and victims of this crime need to be heard, believed and respected, and the responsible persons brought to justice. 

For more information, please contact Staci Taylor at the YWCA 208-476-0155. The YWCA is a community program that provides advocacy for people who have suffered domestic and sexual violence.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dworshak gears up for warm-weather recreation

Enjoy springtime in picturesque north Idaho at outdoor recreation facilities operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir.

Merrys Bay day-use, Dam View, and Canyon Creek campgrounds open April 1. Dent Acres campground will open April 13, with campsite fees at $10 per day by self-deposit registration. Regular-season camping will start May 21, with full hook-up sites available for $18 per night. Reservations for the regular season can be made by calling 877-444-6777, or by reserving online at www.recreation.gov.

Dent Acres Boat Ramp opened March 16. The nearby ramp restroom will be open. Canyon Creek, Bruces Eddy and Big Eddy ramps are already open. 

Visitors wanting to launch boats may encounter large houseboats using the ramps to exit the reservoir. Park rangers ask boaters to be patient or use a different ramp, as loading and removing the houseboats can require considerable time on the ramp. 

The State of Idaho Parks and Recreation recently notified the houseboat owners and the Corps that they no longer intend to offer moorages for houseboats as part of their lease to operate Dworshak State Park recreation facilities because of increased liability, staff safety and anticipated moorage failure. 

“What started as a test to determine feasibility of a large-boat marina to provide additional recreation opportunities and economic benefits to the surrounding community has run its course,” said Dworshak Natural Resource Manager Paul Pence. “Over the past decade or so, the moorage buoys have failed because of high winds and the fluctuating rise and fall of the reservoir. We’re down to one functional buoy, and several vessels whose buoys failed have been tied off to various Corps structures - it’s not safe for the boaters or the public property. 

“With no new concessionaire or user group willing to invest in a large-boat marina, it’s time to call this experiment done,” Pence agreed with the State’s decision to no longer renew the annual moorage rental contracts. “It would take a big pot of money to build and maintain the infrastructure needed for these large vessels, and recreation budgets have continually declined.”

Despite a recreation budget almost half of what it was in 2006 (approx. $1.23 million versus about $778,000 in 2015), staff at Dworshak makes the most of what they have to continue improving the quality of recreation on and around the reservoir and providing safe and fun experiences for visitors. 

Safety is the Corps’ top priority! Please, remember to allow plenty of line when tying-off vessels along the reservoir shoreline to allow for water-level fluctuations. Corps officials advise boaters and others using waterways, both in Dworshak Reservoir and below the dam, on the Clearwater River to be alert to changes in water elevation and volume of flow. The weather may be warming up, but the water in Dworshak Reservoir is still very cold. Always be aware of hypothermia, and wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. 

The region’s snow pack and weather impact flood risk, and consequently Corps Reservoir Management decisions. Current snowpack for the Clearwater sub-basin is 72 percent of normal, and Dworshak Reservoir is just 30 feet from full pool. 

“A low snow year creates good early season recreation conditions for Dworshak since not as much space in the reservoir needs to be reserved for potential inflows,” said Pence. “The higher pool elevation makes it a short hike to the shoreline campsites.” 

Given 2015’s current snowpack outlook, weather and continuing environmental operation requirements, visitors can anticipate seeing the following water-management operations at the Dworshak reservoir through April:

March 1 - water supply forecast for April to July runoff is 74 percent of normal March - currently releasing minimum discharge to conserve water and slowly refill the reservoir April 1 - flood risk management target elevation 1,577.7 feet (22 feet below full pool) April - transition from flood risk management draft to refill; anticipate elevation of 1,580 feet by April 30

For updated water level and boat ramp information, call 800-321-3198. For more information regarding facilities access and current conditions, call 208-476-1255, or stop by the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The visitor center also has fun displays for kids, including a water safety room where they can play in a boat, create water safety posters and try on life jackets.

For more information about activities, programs and recreation opportunities at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir, stop by the Visitor Center, or connect with them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dworshakdam.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Wolf control action completed in the Lolo zone

Idaho Fish and Game has completed a wolf control action in northern Idaho’s Lolo elk zone near the Idaho/Montana border to improve poor elk survival in the area.

The Lolo elk population has declined from 16,000 elk in 1989 to roughly 2,100 elk in 2010, and possibly fewer than 1,000 this year, with predation and habitat changes among the chief causes of the decline. Fish and Game is focusing on habitat improvement operations, regulations on elk hunting, liberal seasons and bag limits on black bears, mountain lions, and wolves, and wolf control actions to improve elk populations. 

In February, Idaho Fish and Game requested USDA Wildlife Services conduct a control action consistent with Idaho’s predation management plan for the Lolo elk zone, where predation by several species is the major reason elk population numbers are considerably below management objectives. Ongoing wolf and elk research has shown that wolves have become the primary predator impacting calf and cow elk survival in the Lolo, contributing to a continual decline in total elk population.

The Lolo predation management plan is posted on the Fish and Game website: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/?getPage=325

USDA Wildlife Services specialists killed 19 wolves through aerial control in February. During the last five years, six other agency control actions in Lolo zone removed an additional 48 wolves.

This winter, helicopter crews captured and placed radio collars on additional elk and wolves in the Lolo zone and surrounding area to continue monitoring to see whether prey populations increase in response to regulated wolf hunting, trapping and control actions.

Fish and Game authorizes control actions where wolves are causing conflicts with people or domestic animals, or are a significant factor in prey population declines. Such control actions are consistent with Idaho’s 2002 Wolf Conservation and Management Plan approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Idaho Legislature.

Fish and Game prefers to manage wolf populations using hunters and trappers and only authorizes control actions where harvest has been insufficient to meet management goals. The Lolo zone is steep, rugged country that is difficult to access, especially in winter.

In addition to the animals killed in this control action, 11 wolves have been taken by hunters and trappers in the Lolo zone during the 2014-2015 harvest season. The trapping season ends March 31, the hunting season ends June 30. More than 90% of the state’s wolf packs are located outside of the Lolo Zone. 

Fish and Game has worked with the U.S. Forest Service for over 40 years on several cooperative initiatives to improve habitat for elk. Hunting has been extremely restricted since 1998 in the Lolo Zone, and is not a primary factor limiting population growth. Rifle bull hunting was reduced by 50 percent in the zone in 1998 in the zone and all rifle cow hunts have been eliminated since that same year. Additional restrictions were placed on rifle and archery hunters in 2011. Further, Fish and Game stepped up predation management efforts and has allowed increased bear and lion harvest in the Lolo since 1999 by allowing a two bear and two mountain lion bag limit, reduced nonresident tag prices, and the opportunity to use a nonresident deer or nonresident elk tag to harvest a black bear, mountain lion, or wolf. 

Restoring the Lolo elk population will require liberal bear, mountain lion, and wolf harvest through hunting and trapping (in the case of wolves), and control actions in addition to improving elk habitat. The short-term goals outlined in Fish and Game’s 2014 Elk Management Plan are to stabilize the elk population and begin to help it grow.

Here’s a link the Elk Management Plan: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/wildlife/?getpage=324

The overall objective is to maintain a smaller, but self-sustaining, population of wolves in the Lolo zone to allow the elk population to increase.

Idaho Fish and Game does not yet have a cost estimate for last month’s wolf control action in the Lolo elk zone. The entire cost will be paid using Wolf Depredation Control Board money funded by sportsmen and women through purchase of hunting licenses.

Rainy and warm February affects Idaho snowpack

Rain and warm temperatures affected Idaho’s mountain snowpack measured by Natural Resources Conservation Service snow surveyors at the end of February. Precipitation for the month was about 50-90% of average for most of Idaho; the water year to date precipitation is 70 to 105% of average.

“This year the jet stream pattern has taken abundant moisture and arctic cold to the central and eastern United States. In Idaho, we’ve seen a larger percent of the moisture falling as rain rather than snow,” said Ron Abramovich, NRCS Water Supply Specialist. “A ‘Snow Drought’ is the best term to explain this year’s unique weather pattern.”

Across southern Idaho, snowpacks increase from west to east ranging from only 28% of average in the Owyhee Basin to 115% in several Snake River headwater drainages in Wyoming. Snowpacks also increase going north to the Salmon Basin, which is 90% of average, but drop to half of normal in the Panhandle Region. 

Idaho’s snowpacks varied more at the end of February than they did at the beginning Abramovich said. Pockets of good snow can be found across the state depending on elevation, slope aspect, February temperatures, whether the snowpack was able to absorb February’s rain, and proximity to the jet stream path on the east side of the continental divide. 

Across Idaho 80% of reservoirs are at or above average storage for this time of year. Southern Idaho reservoirs that are below normal storage are in the basins where irrigation shortages are likely to occur this summer. For information on specific reservoirs, refer to the March Water Supply Outlook Report. 

For the second month in a row, streamflow forecasts decreased from the previous month’s forecast ranging from a few to 30 percentage points. The lowest forecasts are 25-35% of average in the Owyhee drainages, and 40-65% in the parts of the Bear Basin, Salmon Falls Creek, Bruneau River, and Spokane Basin’s tributaries. Water shortages are likely in southwest and south central Idaho. Water users can monitor daily changes and trends in the volume forecasts online on the Idaho’s Snow Survey home page: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/id/snow/; look for the Daily Water Supply Forecasts under the Streamflow Forecasts link. 

NRCS hydrologists analyzed data from Idaho’s snow survey courses and Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) sites for February and noted some interesting facts:

Eight SNOTEL sites are melted out, (normally no sites are melted out by March 1)

30 snow courses did not have any snow to measure on March 1 

25 SNOTEL sites ended the month with less snow water than at the start of February (These sites were primarily low to mid elevation along Idaho’s western border)

For a complete look at Idaho’s whitewater season, see the March 4, PowerPoint presentation given at the Idaho Whitewater Association water forecast meeting posted under: Water Supply Presentations by Year on http://www.id.nrcs.usda.gov/snow/

Friday, March 6, 2015

Idaho Fish and Game Investigates Closed Season killing of two elk

On Feb. 23, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Senior Conservation Officer Eric Crawford investigated the closed season killing of two elk. The elk, a spike bull and a cow were found in a clear-cut approximately 100 yards off of the Elk River/Dent Road at mile marker 32.5. The location of the kill site is just a couple of miles outside of Elk River. There is evidence that each of the elk had been shot. Both elk had been covered by brush to conceal them. The back straps from each of the elk had been taken but the rest of each animal was left to waste. Additionally, the antlers from the spike had been hacked off with what appeared to be an axe. The killing of these elk likely happened late Friday, Feb. 20, or Saturday night, Saturday, Feb. 21.

“This is truly an unfortunate situation as elk and deer have survived through a light winter they are constantly at the mercy of individuals that lack respect for the animals and know how to harvest them legally.” “Of the dozen of wildlife violations I have investigated over the course of the last year this stands out as the most egregious,” states Officer Crawford.

The stealing of Idaho’s wildlife is a serious crime; anyone with information is encouraged to contact Senior Conservation Officer Eric Crawford at 208-669-1106 or the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Information leading to the conviction of the individuals who committed this violation may be eligible for a monetary reward from Citizens Against Poaching.

Friday, February 27, 2015

New pilot’s lounge at Orofino Municipal Airport looks great

By Charlie Pottenger

The Orofino Municipal Airport recently completed the new pilot’s lounge facility, which should be a source of pride for local residents and visiting pilots alike.

The new terminal offers pilots and passengers luxurious facilities to rest and relax during a stop in Orofino.

The small but beautiful facility has a handicapped accessible restroom; a refrigerator generously stocked with water, juices, and energy drinks; a couple of coffee makers; snacks; and magnificent furnishings, including a 55-inch flat screen television.

The interior furnishings and appliances were generously provided with a gift from Lonnie and Shannon Simpson, local supporters of the Orofino Airport’s improvements.

Instructions to pilots posted on the door provide ease of entry. Use of refreshments is currently on an as needed basis; however, donations are appreciated.

Pilots travelling in the North Idaho area are encouraged to stop and visit. Fuel (100 LL) is available by calling the Airport Manager weekdays between hours of 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 208-476-4725. Outside those hours call the sheriff’s office at 208-476-4521. Help with fuel systems will be sent.

Payment for fuel may be made by cash, check, or an invoice will be sent to your mailing address of your choosing. The city is contemplating a card lock system where credit cards can be utilized at the pump.

In addition to this fine terminal facility, Orofino is a great little airport nestled in the Clearwater River valley, home of great steelhead and salmon fishing and in the heart of Idaho’s best recreational area. Pilots are encouraged to come, see and visit Orofino!


Here’s a panorama view of the Orofino Airport’s comfy new pilot’s lounge. Photo by Charlie Pottenger


This is an exterior view of Orofino Municipal Airport’s new terminal and pilot lounge. Photo by Charlie Pottenger