Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Orofino Activity Connection Plan update

By Elizabeth Morgan

The Fitness and Youthful Activity group, a subcommittee of Orofino Chamber of Commerce, met with a wide variety of interested residents on April 20 to share ideas and comments on the draft of Orofino’s Activity Connection Plan (ACP) created by Chris Danley with Vitruvian Planning. The focus of this meeting was to present and gather information. 

“The Orofino City Council meets April 26 and it would be great to have all of our comments compiled by then so I can present to Council; We want the Council to go through the draft and identify any suggestions which are not feasible or do not mesh with the city’s future plans. We want to apply our efforts to those goals which are realistic to attain.

St. Germaine will also present to the School Board at their next meeting on May 16, to learn how the city might be able to incorporate the ACP there.

The draft of the 19-page plan held some really wonderful ideas, here are but a few of them:

One of the activity sites in the draft was Canoe Camp, noted for its historical and cultural assets as well as one of the sites available and in close proximity to residents along Hwy. 12.

Unfortunately, most residents must cross Hwy. 12 to access the park. Is there a way to provide a safe way to get there? Could a median or some type of signal be install to make the crossing less hazardous? This would be considered under infrastructure improvements and most likely, a costly one. But not all of the recommendations are as expensive.

Danley goes on to suggest other site improvements for Canoe Camp, such as installing aquatic bird interpretative panels at regular intervals along the trail with pneumatic bird sound stations; the addition of bike parking at the east end of the site.

“Clearly, we need to approach the National Park Service to show them they are being recognized in this plan. I believe once we have a final plan, there will be an opportunity to present this to them and engage them in a more formal manner.”

The plan has several recommendations for various street infrastructure to accommodate various desired trails and connect existing trails. The plan suggests narrowing the traffic lanes and removing on-street parking to allow room for bike paths throughout the community. “I don’t see these being accepted,” admits St. Germaine, “the lack of parking has long been an issue.”

But the best part of putting all our heads together is that a wide range of solutions are offered. There are some creative thinkers out there, and I especially liked the suggestion of constructing a multi-level parking garage!

The Chamber’s main focus will be on trails and pathways connecting existing trails to desired trails. Many are hoping to see a substantially longer trails or paths available, which can be accessed throughout our community.

In the attempt to create trails away from state highways, St. Germaine’s has offered to check into the possibility of making a proposal to Mike Williams, the owner of Camas Prairie and Bountiful grains Railroad to see if portions of the railroad right of way can be used for paths.

The Fitness and Activity group has reached out to Director Todd Hurt of State Hospital North. Hurt is presently reviewing the draft and is anticipated to convey his comments.

Mayor Ryan Smathers shared an item of interest which was recently discovered by the City which may help our cause. Idaho Statute 36-16-04 limits landowner liabilities for recreational trespass on private land. As long as there is no collection of fees, the property owner cannot be held liable for any injury or mishaps that might occur. This may help persuade private landowners to allow access for trails, etc. and open up more possibilities.

“At one time this area had a BMX bike track on private land, it would be interesting to find out why it closed down. Was it a liability issue?” St. Germaine’s next question was “Is there somewhere else we could have one? If there’s a demand for an activity, we should probably look to see how it could be facilitated.”

“Once I have the input I’ll relay the feedback to Danley for revisions,” said St. Germaine. “He hopes to have a final plan completed by June 30.” In the meantime, please email your ideas and comments to ecodev@clearwatercounty.org.

It will be up to the city to implement the plan. It doesn’t need to be completed overnight, but it provides an overview of goals we would like to put into action.

There are grants out there which may help with some of the funding that will be needed. Of course we have our amazing Specialist St. Germaine to work her magic with finding funds. We are so fortunate to have her expertise.

Just last week, she shared that the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) recently announced a grant which may be used to fund bike paths, sidewalks and other facilities. St. Germaine will explore the specifics of the grant to see if it could bring Orofino just a few steps closer to our destination.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Snake River Basin snowpack, inflows, post-wildfire conditions create potential flood risks

An April 1 near-average snowpack and current seasonal runoff forecasts throughout the Snake River Basin prompted regional water managers to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Walla Walla District rate the 2016 spring flood potential at normal to slightly above normal.

“Although most areas typically at-risk of seasonal flooding haven’t experienced any major issues yet this year, the amount of snowpack remaining in the mountains still poses the chance that even regulated flows may approach flood stage, especially if significant precipitation or unexpectedly warm temperatures occur,” said Steve Hall, Walla Walla District’s water-management program manager.

The Walla Walla District’s area of operations includes about 107,000 square miles, primarily encompassing the Snake River Basin, in parts of six states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. 

Cumulative precipitation amounts within the Walla Walla District varied from 117-174 percent of average for the lower-Snake River area, and from 98-139 percent of average for the middle- and upper-Snake River areas, from October 2016 to March 2016. The Clearwater River Basin is at 144 percent of normal.

Basin precipitation data was obtained from the National Weather Service (NWS) River Forecast Center in Portland, OR.

Unregulated streamflows for major basins in the Walla Walla District were 92 percent of average for the Snake River near Heise; 108 percent of average for the Boise River at Lucky Peak Dam, near Boise; 118 percent of average for the North Fork Clearwater River at Dworshak Dam, near Orofino; and 92 percent for Lower Granite Lake inflows on the lower-Snake River near Pomeroy, Washington.

Snowpack measurements reported by the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) on April 1, 2016, varied between 102-114 percent of average in the lower-Snake River area, 67-115 percent of average in the middle-Snake River area, and 96-110 percent of average in the upper-Snake River area. Individual sub-basin snowpack reports are available on the NRCS website http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/basin.html

The April 1 forecasts of spring runoff varied between 39-129 percent of average throughout the District. In general, the forecasts for most sub-basins within the Snake River Basin are just below average to just over average.

The April through July runoff volume forecast for the Snake River at Lower Granite Dam is 19.5 million acre-feet (AF) or 98 percent of average.

As of April 1 storage for major reservoirs within the Walla Walla District is normal and varies between 28-99 percent full. Most major reservoirs with flood-risk-management responsibility have adequate space available based on the current volume forecasts and ten-day weather forecasts. 

Dworshak Reservoir is currently transitioning to refill operations while releasing spring augmentation flows per NOAA’s Federal Columbia River System biological opinion to benefit juvenile salmon and steelhead outmigration. Spring snowmelt in the Clearwater sub-basin appears to be occurring earlier than normal. 

Additional reservoir storage summaries are available on the NRCS website http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/basin.html

“By the first of April, most of what we’re going to see in snowpack accumulation has peaked, making it somewhat easier to predict what affect precipitation and temperatures will have on reservoir inflows. Flood potential within the district is reevaluated daily throughout the month of April and May,” Hall explained. “Those living in areas where wildfires occurred last year should be especially alert to potential flooding conditions.”

Wildfires in Washington, Idaho and Oregon during 2015 resulted in large, exposed, burned areas, highly prone to flash flooding and erosion. Walla Walla District provided technical assistance to assess post-wildfire conditions and associated flood risks in Clearwater and Idaho counties, Idaho because of the elevated threat to the local communities.

For this spring, the greatest threat of flooding in these areas would be caused by rain-on-snow events in April and May. The district is monitoring conditions and coordinating with state and local jurisdictions in the event additional requests for assistance or flood support are needed.

Corps emergency management staff communicate with local officials to obtain on-site observations from communities in which flooding frequently occurs. 

The Corps works with states, counties and other public entities to provide necessary resources and information. The Corps does not have authority to provide disaster assistance directly to individuals. 

The first responsibility for protecting life, homes and property from flood damage rests with the individual. Local governments and agencies, such as flood control districts, may share in this responsibility, and together form a community's first line of defense in preventing flood damages.

Occasionally, however, local resources are not able to minimize the effects of flooding. The Corps’ flood assistance program is intended to supplement state and local governments and special-purpose districts when more help is needed.

Walla Walla District is prepared to assist states and municipalities with flood-management support. That assistance could include technical expertise, supplies and materials, equipment or contracts for emergency flood-fighting work. District flood support teams and technical experts are ready to deploy should local emergency managers request Corps assistance. 

State and local agencies needing disaster assistance from the Corps should contact the Walla Walla District Emergency Management Office at 509-527-7146, or 509-380-4538.

Individuals and business owners are encouraged to contact local emergency management agencies to ensure they understand how to prepare, respond and recover from a flood.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Take Me Fishing events starting soon

To help get kids excited about fishing, Idaho Fish and Game’s “Take Me Fishing” trailers will soon be making appearances at fishing holes across the state.

Wrapped with vibrant fish illustrations, the trailers are stocked with fishing information and basic fishing equipment that can be checked out for free on a first-come, first-served basis. Fish and Game staff will also be available to answer questions and help those new to the sport.

“All kids and their parents have to do is show up; we’ll get them geared up and on the water,” said Evin Oneale, Fish and Game conservation educator. 

People of any age, whether they are residents or non-residents, can fish without a license during the hours of the events if they register at the trailer. All other rules such as size limits and daily bag limits apply. 

Idaho children 13 years old and under can always fish for free. These events give any angler, youth or adult, the opportunity to try fishing without first buying a license or investing in equipment. 

For a list of scheduled events in your area, go to: http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/fish/?getPage=80.

See the excitement the fish trailers generate in kids by watching this short video: https://idfg.idaho.gov/video/fishing-trailers.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Elk River Fishing Derby is May 7

The Elk River Fishing Derby will be held Saturday, May 7, at Elk Creek Reservoir near Elk River.

Sign-in and weigh-in are both at the Elk River Lodge. Sign-in is from 8 to 11 a.m. Weigh-in must be done by 4 p.m.

There is an entry fee of $10. First prize gets an 85% payback; second prize gets a 10% payback; and third prize gets a 5% payback. Fourth place on down will have a selection of prizes to choose from, until the prizes are gone. Prizes are awarded at 5 p.m.

The derby is a harvest tournament, and the target species is trout. All fish must be brought in whole in a zip lock bag. Each entrant may check in three fish to be weighed, then decide which fish they would like to be recorded. Each entrant’s second fish recorded will be used as a tiebreaker, if needed.

Live fish are not allowed to be used. Prizes will be awarded based on the weight of a single fish. You must be present to win.

All sport fishing regulations pertaining to the taking of fish apply to this tournament. Wild trout in any streams, wild cutthroat trout, white sturgeon, bull trout, and arctic grayling cannot be harvested during the tournament.

Friday, March 25, 2016

An island of sanity called Idaho


By Suzanne Budge, Idaho State Director, National Federation of Independent Business

In the stormy sea of minimum-wage madness washing over the country rests an island of sanity called Idaho.

For thousands of teenagers and young adults looking for their first entry into the job world, our state will safely remain a haven of opportunity, thanks to the recent passage of House Bill 463, which Gov. Butch Otter let become law without his signature.

You see, “Minimum wage workers tend to be young. Although workers under age 25 represented only about one-fifth of hourly-paid workers, they made up half of those paid the federal minimum wage or less.” That quote comes from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2014 (the last year for which statistics are available), the study all other studies on the minimum wage must by necessity start.

Economist Jeffrey Dorfman delved deeper into the BLS study and concluded, “… minimum wage earners are not a uniformly poor and struggling group; many are teenagers from middle-class families and many more are sharing the burden of providing for their families, not carrying the load all by themselves.”

Corralling other research into theirs, economists William J. Carrington and Bruce C. Fallick write that 63 percent of minimum-wage workers don’t remain at that rate a year later, and only 15 percent were at a minimum wage three years later.

However, to hear advocates of higher and higher minimum-wage rates tell it, increases are needed to help struggling families, lift people out of poverty, and invigorate a sagging middle class. Not so. In fact, two states and one city hold cautionary lessons for Idaho in thinking this counter-factual way.

Neighboring Oregonians were promised that a 2002 ballot initiative linking future increases in that state’s minimum-wage rate to rises in the federal Consumer Price Index would take the issue out of politics forever.

Forever didn’t last long, last month Gov. Kate Brown put her signature on legislation that will eventually make Oregon’s minimum-wage rate the highest in the nation, in steps, by region, and by varying rates. On July 1, this seemingly odd way to govern will start making second- and third-class citizens out of many working Oregonians.

“Today we have taken action that will serve as a model for the rest of the nation to follow,” boasted Seattle Mayor Ed Murray in 2014 when the city council voted to eventually raise its minimum-wage rate to $15 an hour.

And how’s that faring?

“Early evidence from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on Seattle’s monthly employment, the number of unemployed workers, and the city’s unemployment rate through December 2015 suggest that since last April when the first minimum wage hike took effect: a) the city’s employment has fallen by more than 11,000, b) the number of unemployed workers has risen by nearly 5,000, and c) the city’s jobless rate has increased by more than 1 percentage point,” reports economist Mark J. Perry of the American Enterprise Institute.

Across the nation, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pinning his legacy on a $15 an hour minimum-wage rate, citing 600 economists who say it will have no effect on employment, even though some of them didn’t go quite that far.

Sen. Bernie Sanders wants a $15 federal minimum wage, but Hillary Clinton says that would be too high, without explaining why her almost-as-high alternative wouldn’t be as damaging. On and on the minimum-wage madness goes.

Idaho wisely pegs its minimum-wage rate the federal rate and has said in the past ‘No’ to efforts to link it to the CPI and now ‘No,' by passing HB 463, to allowing cities and counties to set their rates. What the Idaho Legislature did was say ‘Yes’ to continued job opportunities for the overwhelming majority of current and future minimum-wage earners: Teens and young adults.

Every employer values experience, but how is anyone to get it if governments conspire to remove that first rung up the ladder of everyone’s working life? Our State Legislature deserves praise for keeping Idaho an island of minimum-wage sanity.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Idaho ranchers struggle to protect pastures, haystacks

In “Gem State Producer” March 2016, Vol. 20, Issue 2, Idaho Farm Bureau

By John Thompson

Ranchers in the Lemhi Valley are under siege. Hungry elk are raiding haystacks every night causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages. Elk, deer and in some cases moose are feeding on haystacks, stealing and wasting tons of alfalfa set aside for winter feeding of livestock.

Ranchers in Custer County, Clearwater County and several others are also under pressure and incurring steep losses. Along the Lemhi River from Leadore to Carmen nearly every haystack is surrounded with battered wire fence panels and bales are gouged out along the bottom row where elk have pulled the hay out and weakened the stacks. Some stacks are close to toppling.

Others have fallen, creating significant amounts of wasted hay. Most ranchers are sympathetic to the starving animals’ plight. Yet frustrations are mounting because the Idaho Fish and Game Department’s remedies are less than adequate, according to ranchers who attended a public hearing organized by the Lemhi County Farm Bureau. During the meeting, held Feb. 3 at Salmon City Hall, ranchers speculated that wolves are contributing to the problem. They believe wolf predation is concentrating elk in low-lying areas.

Idaho Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Tom Curet confirmed that wolves have caused elk behavior to change. “I will say that wolves have changed the behavior of elk in this area, there’s no question about that,” Curet said. “We hunt wolves now from August 30 to March 31. We also have trappers and there is a lot of pressure on wolves right now. Hunters and trappers are keeping wolf numbers much more moderate than they were eight or 10 years ago.”

Idaho Fish and Game has several remedies to help landowners protect their crops and haystacks from depredating big game, including hazing, providing fencing materials, depredation hunting and landowner appreciation hunting tags. However, ranchers at the meeting expressed frustration at nearly every remedy. Deep snow came early and has remained throughout much of the winter.

Several ranchers said they have never seen this many elk congregated in the Lemhi Valley. Curet said elk counts from last winter showed the region is meeting population objectives for bulls and exceeding objectives for cows. Idaho Fish and Game is currently flying helicopters in the Salmon Region counting elk but the statistics were not available during the Feb. 3 meeting.

When ranchers raised the question about feeding the elk and attempting to bait them away from haystacks, Curet said the Department’s first priority is to protect stored hay. He implored landowners to contact Fish and Game as soon as elk become a problem.

Fish and Game has spent over $50,000 since Christmas on wire panels and other fencing materials to protect haystacks. However, the wire panels surrounding many haystacks in the Lemhi Valley are battered and bent. One rancher said it’s nearly impossible to keep hungry elk out of a haystack. They push on the fences until they create a hole and then crawl through it. Most of the damage is occurring after dark.

Hazing is one remedy that works temporarily, but then the elk just become someone else’s problem. Rancher Mike Kosler said he could haze elk out of his stack-yards, but he knows they will just move on to his neighbor’s haystack. Another rancher said he has hazed elk for several miles using four-wheelers, but they make it back to his ranch nearly as fast as he does.

In a subsequent meeting held at the Idaho Statehouse on Feb. 17, Ed Schreiber, Idaho Fish and Game Deputy Director of Field Operations, said the Department has seven employees dedicated to dealing with depredating wildlife. They receive an average of 700 depredation complaints annually.

This year so far there have been 236 depredation complaints, with 189 of them involving elk. The Department has issued 76 kill permits and authorized 22 depredation hunts. They are currently operating five emergency feeding sites for elk with about 650 animals total at those sites.

Schreiber said, according to Idaho Statute, “in a nutshell, prevention of depredation is defined as a responsibility of landowners to prevent and mitigate damages.” The Department collects money from hunting tag sales to pay for depredation prevention and compensation. In 2015 they collected $655,000 but the cost of the program eclipsed that amount and money had to be pulled from the state’s general fund to make up the shortfall.

Over the last 10 years the average depredation cost to the state has been $245,000 and they have averaged 30 claims on damage to stored crops. Idaho Cattle Association Executive Director Wyatt Prescott said his organization wants elk managed away from private cattle operations. “Ultimately this industry has challenges going through the compensation program,” Prescott said.

“The goal is to manage wildlife away from the common threat. Many landowners enjoy having wildlife on their property but we’ve had two feet of snow all winter and around the haystacks the elk manure makes it resemble a CAFO. We don’t necessarily want compensation. We want to manage elk away from the conflict areas for ranchers,” Prescott said. 

Curet said the Department is reluctant to establish new winter feeding grounds for elk because of the potential for brucellosis transmission and other disease concerns. “Our main goal is prevention,” Curet said. “I also want to mention that you need to contact us if you are having problems. By state law the operator has to report the damage and then we have to respond before we can compensate. Winter feeding of elk is a dangerous prospect but if we need to bait them away then we would entertain that possibility. Our first priority is to help you protect haystacks. Then we try to harass the elk off and if that doesn’t work we start killing elk.”

Lemhi County Farm Bureau President James Whittaker said the Fish and Game compensation program doesn’t work. “It doesn’t function and it’s not workable so none of us want to apply for it,” Whittaker said. “We also have frustration with the landowner appreciation tag system. Basically what you’re doing is trying to force it down our neck when we are the ones carrying the animals.”

Whittaker said hunting pressure forces elk onto private land in the fall and wolves also contribute. If landowners were allowed to market the landowner appreciation tags that would push elk off the private land and make them available to hunters which would reduce herd sizes. “The legislature needs to change the compensation law and the landowner appreciation tag law and compensation needs to add up to 100 percent of damage incurred,” he said. “Those tags need to be given out in a number commensurate with damage to private property and the property owner should be able to market those tags as he chooses.”

The Lemhi County Farm Bureau is attempting to collect data related to damages this winter. County Board member Wes Mackay said an elk eats about 20 pounds of forage per day. Landowners are encouraged to survey their damages by number of elk counted feeding on haystacks or in private pastures, multiply by 20 pounds per day and report the numbers to the County Farm Bureau office.

Other ranchers who attended the meeting in Salmon expressed frustration with the hunting options provided by Idaho Fish and Game. Hunting on private property is a much different experience than many Idaho hunters expect. With barns and other outbuildings, as well as neighbors’ homes often nearby, it requires the rancher to oversee the hunts carefully in many instances. 

Yet guiding hunters on private land requires a guide license. Either way, ranchers say it takes up a lot of their time to make the hunts happen and after elk are shot it doesn’t necessarily alleviate the problem. Will Naillon, Idaho Fish and Game Commissioner for the Salmon Region, said it’s time to start talking about a long term solution to this problem.

“The Commission has to look at social acceptance and carrying capacity of the land and the relationship between sportsmen who think there is no such thing as too many elk and ranchers who are trying to make a living,” he said. “If we end up with an elk population that is beyond social acceptance we need to do something but a lot of this is set in Idaho code and these things can be changed. I’d rather see a long term solution than paying out huge depredation claims.”

Friday, March 11, 2016

Get a free canvas bag for filling out Orofino library’s survey


By Jo Moore

Clearwater Memorial Public Library wants to hear from its patrons, and we have provided a survey that can be downloaded and filled out from their website. The first 100 people to return a completed survey between April 1 and April 15 will receive a limited edition canvas library bag, free!

You can find the survey on our new website by going to http://cmplfoundationinc.org or http://www.orofinolibraryproject.com. It is the last option on the top menu, and also featured as a blog post.

Please take time to download and complete it. We will start accepting completed surveys at the library on Friday, April 1, with a deadline of April 15.

Letters will be going out to our known patrons, asking that they fill out and return the survey. Copies may also be picked up at the library front desk and returned there.

While you are on our website, check out the blog entry on Tumble Books, and feel free to send any ideas or thoughts to info@orofinolibraryproject.com, and these may be added to the on-going blog by our webmaster, Kc Morris. We are seeking input on exciting books to read, or suggestions for making our website the go-to place!

The library’s future

It is with a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm that we inform all our library patrons that a non-profit foundation has completed its official non-profit formation, with the purpose of creating awareness of the need for expansion of our library. 

Orofino’s library has been located on the corner of Michigan Avenue, across from the old junior high school, since 1965—50 years now. The last major expansion was accomplished in 1984 with a grant and almost $50,000 in local donations, adding a new wing on a piece of adjoining property which was purchased for that purpose.

It has been over thirty years since the last addition, and many advances in the services offered by Clearwater Memorial Public Library (CMPL) have been made. We have been in the computer age with an automated circulation system since the 1980’s, and the electronics boom with hand-held devices has caused a plethora of needed new services offered to the public by CMPL. The problem is: not enough people space! We are studying the future importance and needs for our library, and have come up with a survey to help us determine our future path toward expansion.