Friday, April 18, 2014

County to receive 1.1 million from SRS

By Elizabeth Morgan

Any day now Clearwater County will receive $1.1 million from the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS), (originally the Craig-Wyden Bill) of the $28 million distributed to Idaho. The funds of SRS are generated by the U.S. Forest Service, are intended to help communities such as ours in several ways; one is to improve the environment within our forested Federal Lands and assist counties in maintaining the forests and develop wildfire protection plans. Another goal is to help provide jobs to those who live in areas where no taxes are generated due to being Federal Lands. Local resource advisory committees (RAC) are formed to recommend how the money is spent and to oversee the projects needed within their region.

For Clearwater County, much of the money will be spent to help maintain county roads, a major priority and ongoing expense to the county, which property taxes just can’t realistically accommodate. One of the reasons the county’s tax base is so low is that fifty-three percent of Clearwater County land is owned by the federal government, 14 percent by the state, and another one percent is owned by the Nez Perce Tribe. In other words, a little more than two-thirds of the county’s land, depends on the other third to generate the taxes needed to supply the entire county.

In addition to the county’s $1.1 million awarded by the government, North Central Idaho received it’s share ($785,000) of an additional $30 million distributed nationally to complete projects to benefit the country’s forests.

County Commissioner Don Ebert is a member of the RAC to oversee our area, and recently attended a meeting in Grangeville to discuss how the money is designated to projects on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests. Most notably in the discussion was $195,000 to be put towards Weitas Bridge, an 80 year old bridge that spans the North Fork of the Clearwater River at Weitas Creek, which was closed to pedestrians and vehicles three years ago. the bridge provided access to the popular campground and a trailhead at the mouth of Weitas Creek. The exact cost to repair the bridge is still undetermined, as it awaits several assessments to dictate what needs to be done, but work is expected to resume this year and well into 2015.

Some of the their projects which were awarded funds included: $60,000 for the Clearwater Basin Collaborative; $62,000 for stand exams on the forest; $70,000 for treating weeds; $43,000 for plantings and stream channel restoration associated with the Little Slate Project on the Salmon River Ranger District; $34,500 for sign installation on the North Fork and Palouse ranger districts; $88,000 for the Selway Bitterroot-Frank Church Foundation, a group that helps the agency maintain trails; $54,000 for motorized trail work on the Salmon River Ranger District; $27,000 for trail work in the Hells Canyon Wilderness; $20,000 for recreation site maintenance work on the North Fork and Palouse ranger districts; $40,000 for trail work in various other locations of the forest; and $91,500 for various other projects.

Questions for additional funding next year add uncertainty to the entire situation, statewide as the government has authorized SRS funds on a yearly basis. The SRS Act was passed by Congress in 2000 to aid states with large tracts heavily timbered and Federal Lands throughout 2006. Congress extended the Act the following year, then in 2008, reauthorized the funds for four more years. Since then, it has existed on a year by year reauthorization.

“We’re glad to have it,” said Commissioner Don Ebert, “We feel like it’s an obligation of the government to provide us with the additional money. We use it prudently, and continue to plod forward.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Contract for sewage treatment facilities draws attention and questions

By Elizabeth Morgan

Board members and patrons of the Orofino/Whiskey Creek Water and Sewer District met with Orofino City Council members in a special meeting held April 7, to discuss the contract between them and whether or not the District should be obligated to pay the sewer reserve fee that was implemented by the city in October of 2013.

Dave Owsley, Chairman of the Orofino/Whiskey Creek District, stated that the reserve fund was not mentioned in the contract for sewage treatment which was signed in January of 2005.

In particular, Item XVI of the contract was cited as a major complaint of the District. It states, “ …Without binding the City, the City shall consult with representatives of the district to discuss increased rates in the event such rate increases become necessary to meet increased costs of operations being experienced by the City, and the City shall retain the right to increase rates paid by the District to meet increased costs of operation.”

The district is arguing that “costs of operation” do not include a reserve fee. Council member Don Gardner, Pro-tem for Mayor Smathers, who was unable to attend, said that it was a matter of perspective.

The fee was established by the city in order to build a reserve fund for the wastewater facility. The plant and structure itself are in good condition but the equipment is beginning to show signs of wear and tear and will at some point need to be replaced.

City council members were asked if repairing or replacing the equipment didn’t fall under maintenance of the plant, and why the wastewater plant would need to have such extensive work done if it was constructed in 1984, compared to other facilities which were much older. It seemed to some that it would still be in good running condition if everything was properly managed.

Water/Wastewater Supervisor Mike Martin explained that not only was the equipment (which ran all day every day) antiquated, but regulations have become more rigorous, and that some pieces of equipment ran in the neighborhood of half a million dollars to replace. Storm drains and wastewater collection systems were in need of repair, and leaks allowed more water into the system which in turn heightened the amount of water to be treated, as well as the cost to treat it.

Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy fix to the equipment’s decline and it is extremely expensive to replace. Orofino cannot afford to ignore the problem and wait for the inevitable breakdown of the wastewater plant before seeking a solution.

“We’re trying to avoid a huge expense for the patrons down the road,” Treasurer McGuffie explained. “I live on Riverside. When I moved there 10 years ago I paid $25 for sewer utilities; today, I pay $109 a month, because they had no reserve fund in place to address situations like this.” As a result, the cost is passed on to the consumer.

The budget to purchase equipment requires millions. Grants and loans are available of course, but nearly impossible to acquire without a Reserve Fund. The lender of course, wants to be assured of the money being paid back and a reserve fund is one of the items they look for when deciding on a recipient.

For the reasons above, the City asked residents who are hooked up to the sewer system to pay an additional $5 a month beginning in October of 2013 which will increase by $5 each year for four years to reach a cap of $20 added to their bill for the Reserve Fund. The money is designated a “Dedicated Fund,” which cannot be used for any other purpose. The monetary goal which would be set aside in the Reserve fund would be in the neighborhood of 2.5 million dollars. That figure would hopefully be matched by a potential grant in the future to replace antiquated equipment in the Wastewater Plant.

Still, many District patrons felt they should not have to pay into Orofino’s Reserve Fund; it was not in the contract.

Council member Gardner shared other information regarding an increase in the amount of water used by the District and requiring treatment via the Wastewater Plant.

A new meter measuring the amount of water used in the Orofino/Whiskey Creek District was installed in May of 2011. Since then, 133,750,000 gallons have been treated, averaging approximately 126,000 gallons per day. But records show that the use has increased.

Gardner informed the council that on that day, April 7, 2014, the meter read 197,000 gallons to have been used by residents of the district. The contract allows the District up to 150,000 gallons per day. Supervisor Martin reported that there were a couple of times that 450,000 gallons were recorded in a single day. The city absorbs the cost to treat the additional water.

Members of the audience asked how the amount used could be so high. The reason was attributed to rainwater leaking into the water collection system which obviously needed to be addressed, not only in Orofino but Konkolville as well.

Dan Chapman, owner of a 24 unit mobile home park on Orofino Creek, asked the council about the water rates charged and increases which have occurred in the past 25 years. Right then and there he did the math, with the help of his calculator, and announced that the city had done a pretty good job of controlling expenses. The rates charged by the city had increased $7 over 25 years, roughly an increase of .28 cents a year.
Nobody wants to pay more,” he said. “I don’t want to see it, but it’s a necessary evil, I don’t want to be hammered (financially) 10 years down the road.”

Board member Bob Hardy of Orofino/Whiskey Creek District felt the city’s decision to raise the district’s fees was unreasonable, and in violation of their contract with the city, but offered no answers when Gardner asked if he had brought any other solutions to the table.

The District informed the council that they would meet with their attorney and hold a meeting amongst their patrons to decide what steps to take next. City Council members were invited to attend if they wished, once a date had been set.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Local men “Tough Mudding” for Wounded Warriors

Christopher Stump and Josh Stuart have been training hard for the “Tough Mudder” competition in Las Vegas.

Clearwater County residents Christopher Stump and Josh Stuart will be traveling to Las Vegas later this month to take part in the “Tough Mudder” competition, which raises funds for the Wounded Warrior Project.

Chris and Josh are both former Navy servicemen, and have entered “Tough Mudder” under the team name Idaho Squids.

“Tough Mudder,” which takes place April 25-26 this year, is a physical adventure challenge that promotes teamwork and camaraderie. Chris and Josh look forward to tackling the competition’s obstacle courses, which are designed to test all-around strength, stamina, and mental grit.

Chris and Josh have chosen to do this without any monetary help from sponsorships; however, they invite you to donate directly to the Wounded Warrior Project, as a gesture of support. If you would like to donate in their names, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/teams/idaho-squids/564093 and click on the “donate now” link beneath their names.

Chris and Josh are both employed at Nightforce in Orofino.


Wounded Warrior Project

The mission of the Wounded Warrior Project is “To honor and empower Wounded Warriors. To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history. To raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members. To help injured service members aid and assist each other. To provide unique, direct programs and services to meet the needs of injured service members.”

Recreation fee increases proposed by Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests

Recreation managers at the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have struggled over the past 10 years to keep campgrounds, cabins and lookout rentals open without raising fees during a time when budgets have significantly declined resulting in staff and service reductions.

Over the last two years those managers completed a Recreation Facilities Analysis (RFA) to determine how the forest can maintain a sustainable program during severely declining budgets, while still providing the high quality recreation experiences forest visitor’s desire.

Three options were evaluated during the RFA process: 1) reduce services; 2) manage fee sites using a concessionaire; and 3) raise fees at selected developed sites. The Forest received many comments from the public about the different proposals listed above. Many of those that commented were concerned with use of concessionaires or with limiting services and closing sites.

Considering these public comments and the current funding levels available for recreation sites, the Forests have selected the alternative to increase fees at developed campgrounds and cabin/lookout rental sites. Recreation managers at the Nez Perce–Clearwater National Forests are interested in hearing your comments on a proposal to increase fees at 29 campgrounds and cabin/lookout rentals.

Forest recreation opportunities are found in three large geographical zones: the North Zone, including the Palouse and North Fork Ranger Districts; the Central Zone, containing the Lochsa, Moose Creek (Selway River), and Powell Ranger Districts; and the South Zone which covers the Red River, Elk City, South Fork of the Clearwater and Salmon River Districts. Proposed fee increases are as follows:
 
North Zone

Aquarius, Hidden Creek, Kelly Forks, Noe Creek and Washington Creek Campgrounds currently charge $7 per night which will increase to $10 per night.

Laird Park and Little Boulder Campgrounds currently charge $8 per night which will increase to $12 per night.

Elk River Campground which has electrical hook-ups will go from $15 per night to $20 per night.

Bald Mountain Lookout rental is proposed to increase from $35 to $45 per night.

Kelly Forks Cabin is proposed to increase from $55 per night to $65 per night.

Liz Butte Cabin is proposed to increase from $20 per night to $40 per night.
 
Central Zone

Apgar, Wild Goose, Wilderness Gateway, Wendover, White Sand, Whitehouse and O’Hara Bar Campgrounds currently charge $8 per night which will increase to $15 per night.

Jerry Johnson Campground is currently charging $10 per night which is proposed to increase to $15 per night.

Powell Campground which also has electrical hook-ups will increase from $15 per night to $20 per night.

Glade Creek Group Campground will increase from $35 per night for five camping spots to $50 per night.

Lolo Pass currently has a special event fee for winter users. Day passes will remain $5 per day, but season passes are proposed to increase from $25 to $35 dollars per season.

Castle Butte Lookout is proposed to increase from $30 per night to $40 per night.
 
South Zone

Castle Creek and South Fork Campground are proposed to increase from $8 per night to $12 per night.

Fish Creek Campground currently charges $6 per night which will increase to $12.

Spring Bar Campground on the Salmon River will increase from $10 per night to $12 per night.

Red River Campground is proposed to increase from $6 per night to $12 per night.

Jerry Walker Cabin located near the Elk City is proposed to increase from $20 per night to $40 per night.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests have made numerous improvements to these sites such as repaving roadways, replacing rest rooms, replacing tables and campfire rings and improving water systems. These changes were made to insure that the public needs were being met and that facilities meet health and safety standards.

“We recognize how important these sites are to our local communities and those who use the sites. These fee increases will help us maintain the sites to the level and quality people have come to expect,” said Carol Hennessey recreation program manager.

In 2004, Congress passed the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act which allows the Forest Service to keep 95 percent of fees collected at certain recreation sites and use these funds locally to operate and maintain and improve these sites.

All fee change proposals will be presented before a citizen’s advisory committee, called the BLM Recreation Resource Advisory Council, or BLM RecRAC. Committee members represent a broad array of interest groups to help ensure that the Forest Service is proposing reasonable and publicly acceptable fee changes. Committee members will help ensure that the Forest Service addresses public issues and concerns about recreation fees.

Some of the campsites and group sites listed require reservations. Please be sure to check the Nez Perce–Clearwater website for detailed information about all developed recreation sites at http://www.fs.usda.gov/nezperceclearwater. People wanting reserve sites must make reservations via toll free number (877) 444-6777 or online at http://www.recreation.gov/.

For more information, questions or comments about any of these fee change proposals, please contact Diana Jones at (208)476-8239. You can mail comments to: Diana Jones, RFA Coordinator, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests, 12730 U.S. Highway 12, Orofino, ID 83544 or email comments to dljones@fs.fed.us.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Discharge flows from Dworshak Reservoir to further increase

Discharge flows from Dworshak Dam were increased again March 22, from approximately 17,000 c.f.s. (cubic feet per second) to about 20,000 c.f.s., to make room for anticipated inflows resulting from additional rainfall and snowmelt in the Clearwater sub-basin, according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water-management officials.

Corps officials advise boaters and other people using regulated waterways to be alert to changes in water elevation and volume of flow. Water-management changes can be pretty dynamic this time of year as weather systems come through the region and temperatures begin to rise.

Managing water levels to reduce flood risk throughout the reservoir system requires constant weather and snow-pack monitoring and making appropriate adjustments to ensure enough storage space is available for rainfall and snowmelt that occurs each spring.

Current water-management conditions can be viewed online at www.nwd-wc.usace.army.mil/nww/rreports.htm -- click on "Hourly" and look in the "TOTAL" column under the "OUTFLOW" heading on the reservoir report. Reservoir elevation is found in the "FOREBAY" column under the "EL AT POWERHOUSE" heading.

During fiscal year 2012, 1.98 billion kW hours of electrical power was produced by Dworshak Dam's three generating units. Since Dworshak Dam became operational in June 1972, it has prevented about $2.8 million in potential local flood damages.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Dent Acres boat ramp is open; early season camping starts March 28

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir are gearing up for the early recreation season by opening the Dent Acres boat ramp, as of March 14.

“With the weather beginning to warm, kokanee fishing is really starting to pick up in reservoir areas near the dam and at Canton Creek. Most are averaging about 10-inches long and pretty fat." said Paul Pence, natural resources manager at the dam. "It might be a little cold for swimming this time of year, but Dworshak still has a lot to offer outdoor-lovers—camping, hiking, picnicking, visitor center activities, fishing and boating,”

Rangers encourage campers to make reservations soon for space at one of their scenic campgrounds. The following recreation opportunities are scheduled to open as listed below:

Dent Acres Campground will open on March 28, weather permitting. Dent Acres campsites cost $10 per day by self-deposit registration during the early season. Regular season camping will start May 22, for $18 per night. To reserve a favorite camping spot and date, please make reservations well in advance of your target date.

To reserve your site at Dent Acres Campground, Dent Acres Group Camp, or Dent Acres picnic shelter you can call 1-877-444-6777 or go online to www.recreation.gov. Golden Age and America the Beautiful discounts are accepted, so please have card numbers available to include when registering.

Merrys Bay day use area, Dam View, Canyon Creek and Grandad campgrounds will open on April 1, weather permitting.

Turkey hunting season starts soon, with a youth hunt April 8-14, and general season starting on April 15. Hunting is allowed on all Corps property around the reservoir except in developed recreation areas. Be aware that ATV operation is prohibited off of designated roads, and behind gates or fences. Please, follow all safety precautions while recreating in the forest during the hunting season, and be aware the reservoir is still very cold from the spring runoff.

Water discharged from Dworshak Dam may fluctuate to accommodate run-off as warmer springtime conditions melt snow. Corps officials advise boaters and other persons using water ways, both in Dworshak Reservoir and below the dam on the Clearwater River, to be alert to changes in water elevation and volume of flow. Always be aware of the risk of hypothermia, and wear a Coast Guard approved personal flotation device. Boat operators should also keep the fluctuating reservoir levels in mind when anchoring or tying-off their vessels.

School groups are invited to visit Dworshak Dam Visitor Center where they can learn about hydropower, and the natural and cultural history of the area. The visitor center offers a variety of interpretive displays, tours, water safety activities, and historical movies, including the popular "Last of the Log Drives" and "Dworshak Dam Construction."

For more information about the visitor center, water safety, recreation opportunities or current conditions, call 208-476-1255, or stop by the Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Community support of Youth ChalleNGe is phenomenal

By Pam Jones

Derek Newland, Director of the Idaho Youth ChalleNGe Academy (IDYCA) of Pierce, spoke to Orofino Chamber members at the March 5 meeting. Derek was raised in Boise, graduating from Boise State in 1981. He had been retired from the National Guard for three weeks prior to accepting the opportunity to be the director at Pierce.

He has been working with Superintendent Bob Vian to get through the legislative process. There is a 75/25 Federal/State match for funding for the program. There are a total of 49 employees, all living in Pierce, Weippe and Orofino. All employees are state employees. Four additional positions will be open this summer. Currently there are five teachers and one principal. All of the teachers and cooks are employees of the school district. Bob Vian commented that for each position filled at the academy, another position opened up in the area from those leaving previous jobs. “The love of the staff is what makes this program so successful,” commented Newland.

“The first two weeks were difficult, as you can imagine, for these kids coming out of their environment, losing their cell phones, losing their iPads and their iPods, their computers and Facebook, their caffeine and nicotine, narcotic drugs, and then we’re going to throw them all together in a barracks and learn how to get along. It’s been quite a journey to see them transform and doing what they are doing,” said Newland. The cadets had no contact with anyone outside the academy for the first two weeks. After the initial two week period the Candidates were allowed a five minute phone call with their families.

Weekly competitions earn cadets additional phone time and other privileges. Students start out as Candidates. After the first two weeks they progress from Candidate to Cadet; then from Cadet to Cadet Airman, which is the same as a single stripe in the Air Force. From Airman they advance to Airman Basic and then on to Sr. Airman. Each progression in rank earns them more privileges.

Twenty-five percent of the students are girls. The students are divided into three groups: the Mountain Gems (girls), the Ax Men (boys age 17-18), and the Scouts (boys 16-17). The three groups do not interact.

Out of 99 beginning candidates, 83 are with the program today. It is a volunteer program that takes sacrifice and commitment on the part of the students. The students are working towards achieving 14 credits (which is one and a half years’ worth of credits) in five and a half months. The cadets are involved in academics from morning until evening five and six days a week with huge successes.

Upon graduation the community can help by doing mock interviews with the graduates for job positions. This does not mean that the employer is going to hire the student; they are just providing a real-life experience to help them prepare for the interview process.

The cadets are required to fulfill 40 hours of service to the community prior to graduation. They recently were able to assist at the VA Home in Lewiston and spend a day with the vets and play games with them, etc. They will be working with Dworshak and the Forest Service. The main goal is to get the students to a point where they will be able to graduate with their class and become contributing members of society.

The students will have mentors for a 12-month period after they graduate that they will work with on a weekly and monthly basis to make sure they are following the goals they have put together when they leave the academy. Youth ChalleNGe has had 120,000 graduates nationwide in the 20 years the program has been in existence.

Mr. Newland commented that “the community support is phenomenal. I would like to thank the community for looking at Facebook, watching the paper and keeping track.”

The academy does not provide the extracurricular activities that the other schools have for the cadets. An individual in Pierce has offered to provide music/choir to the cadets for a couple of hours once a week. “We are looking for someone that wants to teach art for a couple of hours once a week. I would love to find somebody that knows how to weld that has his own welding equipment to hold welding classes for some of the young men who have a real want and desire to do something like that,” said Mr. Newland.

The requirements to be a student at the academy are:

- Must be ages 16 to 18

- Must be a high school dropout or at risk student

- Must be a resident of Idaho

- Must have no felonies

- Must volunteer for the program

The program is free to the students.

Youth ChalleNGe is the only alternative school in Idaho that is required to have the same amount of class hours as public school students. Core classes are from Monday through Thursday and alternative classes (art, physical training, music, etc.) are from Friday through Sunday. Classes start after breakfast at 7:45-8 a.m. and go throughout the day and into the evening with lunch and dinner breaks. The cadets “hit the rack” at 9 p.m. and are up at 5 a.m. A whole school year is completed in a matter of weeks compared to months in the public school system. “Everything is earned-nothing is given,” said Newland.

Cadets at the meeting commented that they like the physical training and that the staff is very supportive; they don’t like the drama between the girls and that they have no contact with their families. Newland commented that there is just as much drama in the boys’ dorm as there is in the girls’.

Chamber guests

Tabby Haskett, with the Clearwater Tribune, was introduced by Pam Jones. Tabby will be covering the Chamber meetings for the articles in the newspaper.

Jeff Jones introduced Jason Mechling as the new manager of Les Schwab.

Announcements

CVH Ladies Night Out will be March 27 at 5:30 p,m. Free mammograms and pap smears will be offered for those who might not otherwise be able to afford them.

Bob Vian encouraged everyone to vote on the upcoming Maintenance and Operating Levy for Orofino Joint School District #171.

Amber Hanes-Miller will be hosting a Chamber After Hours on March 20 at 5:30 p.m. at the DMV building. This is an opportunity to introduce the various services that are available in the building. The community is welcome to bring the family.

Special events

The Chamber Auction is Friday, March 14. The doors will open at 5 p.m. at the Best Western. The theme is “Pot of Gold”. Contact Kim S-Browning at the Chamber office to donate items for the auction.

The Fun Run will be in June. Contact Kim or Monica Jones for more information.
Executive Director’s report

The Discover guide from North Central Idaho Travel Association (NCITA) will be printed at the end of the week. Stephanie Deyo is working on the social media for NCITA. If anyone has pictures, events or information to promote the area, feel free to contact Stephanie.

The Orofino Chamber of Commerce Adventure Guides are here. Contact Kim at the Chamber office.
Committee reports

Matt Sartini reported that on the last legislative conference call a bill is going through regarding trauma centers. The closest trauma center to us is St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center, which means that some emergency services could completely bypass CVH as a care facility.

The April program will be presented by SCORE, a business mentorship program. The CBC Wilderness Society will present the program in June.

The Chamber of Commerce meets the first Wednesday of the month at noon at the Ponderosa in the banquet room.