Thursday, January 26, 2012

North Central Idaho sees improvements in labor market

Labor force statistics indicate the north central Idaho economy has been growing in recent months.

North central Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate moved down another notch from 8.2 percent in November to 8.1 percent in December. A strengthening economy meant the region's unemployment rate in December was significantly below the 9.4 percent in the same month the year before.

All of the counties in north central Idaho, except Nez Perce County, saw their unemployment rates drop between November and December. Even Clearwater County’s when from 13.6 percent in November to 13.3 percent in December. In December of last year it was 15 percent.

Nez Perce County’s unemployment rate went up from 6.9 percent to 7.2 percent, as the full impact of the Clearwater Paper layoff began to be felt. Despite the increase, its rate was below the 7.8 percent of the previous December.

Despite its neighbor’s unemployment increase, Asotin County’s rate fell to 7.8 percent in December after jumping to 9.7 percent in November. Its rate was down a full percentage point from 8.8 percent in December 2010.

Industries showing growing strength in recent months include manufacturing, insurance, logging, retail, restaurants, and health care.

In December 2010, about 4,400 north central Idaho residents were unemployed. Twelve months later, about 3,900 were. That was an 11 percent drop in unemployment. In the same period, the number of unemployed Idahoans fell nearly 13 percent and the number of unemployed Americans fell 9 percent.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Anna Grimaldo to visit Japan with other Idaho students

Anna Grimaldo, sophomore at Orofino High School, is going to Japan in July 2012. Anna was selected to travel to Japan with a delegation of high school students from across the state of Idaho. The program is being funded with a grant from the government of Japan. Anna Grimaldo will join a group of twelve Idaho students to learn about the culture, history, and people of Japan first hand. They will spend nearly two weeks in country. The hope is that they will share some of American culture with their counterparts, and bring back their new found knowledge and pass it on to their home communities.

The student trip is actually the second phase of a grant project submitted by Dr. Dan Prinzing of the Idaho Human Rights Foundation centered in Boise, Idaho. The first phase sent a team of 12 Idaho educators to Japan last summer. Michelle George, seventh grade teacher at Orofino Elementary, had the fantastic opportunity to be part of that group. The adults visited several major cities and cultural sites in Japan, including some public schools in Tokyo. The educators all wrote lessons plans on various aspects of Japanese culture that are now available on line to any interested teachers world-wide. All of the lesson plans can be found on the Idaho Human Rights Foundation web site:

During this second year, Anna will participate in a collaborative study of Japan with the other students from around Idaho. They will use the Internet to post projects and collaborate on their learning. They will be sharing their experiences with their home schools next year.

The third phase will bring Japanese students here to Idaho. Anna’s family will host one of the Japanese visitors for a couple of weeks in the third year of the program.

Anna Grimaldo was selected because she has demonstrated exceptional academic and personal qualities, along with an impressive desire to expand her experiences by visiting a country very far from home. Orofino can be very proud of her and confident that she will represent her home community well.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Corps invites public comments on Dworshak Nutrient Supplementation Environmental Assessment

‘Next step’ in environmental compliance to resume Dworshak reservoir ecosystem restoration

AHSAHKA, Idaho The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District invites the public to comment no later than Thursday, Feb. 16, on an Environmental Assessment (EA) and draft Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the “Dworshak Reservoir Nutrient Supplementation Pilot Study.” This 30-day comment period is the next step in Corps’ National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance as it plans to resume this reservoir ecosystem stewardship pilot study in 2012.

Last year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit to the Corps effective October 15, 2011 after its environmental review and consideration of public comments. The NPDES permit allows application of liquid fertilizer to Dworshak Reservoir as an ecosystem treatment.

The EA and draft FONSI are available for viewing at the Corps’ website at and the Orofino City Hall at 217 First Street, Orofino, Idaho. Comments on the Corps Environmental Assessment must be postmarked, faxed or e-mailed to the Corps by February 16, 2012, to be included as part of the public record.  E-mail comments should be sent to Faxed comments should be sent to 509-527-7832. U.S. Mail comments should be mailed to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Walla Walla District, Environmental Compliance Section, ATTN: John Leier, 201 North 3rd Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362-1876.

To learn more about the Corps of Engineers and its mission in the Walla Walla District, see the District website at

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Broadband coverage for dead spots

By Alannah Allbrett

The Orofino Chamber of Commerce held its first regular meeting of the year Wednesday, January 4 at the Ponderosa Restaurant.

Chris St Germaine, Project Development Leader for the Nez Perce Tribe, gave a presentation about recent developments erecting towers for a comprehensive broadband system over the Clearwater Valley.

Cities that will have accessible coverage include Culdesac, Kamiah, Fraser, Orofino Riverside area, Ahsahka, Peck, Cherry Lane, Cottonwood Creek, and as many areas in between as possible.

St Germaine said the mountainous topography has been a huge challenge in erecting the necessary towers and getting equipment to those spots. It is also prohibitive to bring power to remote areas. The cost to deliver power to one of the sites alone will be $68,000.

Through the American Restoration and Recovery Act, grants have been obtained, with matching funds from the tribe to undertake this massive project.

The target date for connectivity, in the areas mentioned, is estimated for early March, 2012. The rule of thumb is: if you can see a tower, you are likely in range for service.

Coverage speeds and costs range from: Tier 1 (for the home owner) 3 mbps down and 1.5 mbps up, at a cost of $20 (with a $100 setup fee). Tier 2 (10 mbps up/down for $300. Tier 3 20 mbps down/up for $500. Connectivity at 20 mbps – to be negotiated.

Broadband coverage will greatly assist emergency responders and some of the dead spots will be knocked out. The network will fill in the gaps to areas in Riverside and to the fisheries where before, coverage was not possible. 

For site survey information call: 208-843-7307 ext. 2.

Executive Director

Annual bills have been sent out to members via email. If you did not receive yours contact Stephanie Deyo.

$250 raised from the Festival of Trees will go directly to fund next year’s events with more lighting and to meet other festival needs.

The Chamber Auction will be held in March this year, near St. Patrick’s Day so that it doesn’t conflict with the World Jet Boat Races. Dates will be announced.

Next meeting

The next regular chamber meeting is scheduled for Jan. 18, at , at the Ponderosa Restaurant.

Clearwater River oil leak still being monitored

By Alannah Allbrett

The underground petroleum leak discovered in the Clearwater River Monday, December 26, is still under investigation Earl Liverman, a representative of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), identified the leak as being located near Atkinson Distributing, Inc. That business includes an unmanned gas station as well as above-ground storage tanks.

The underground lines at the station were pressure tested as recently as 2011, and no leaks were found at that time. On November 11, a small earth quake, of 2.3 – 2.6 magnitude, occurred in the area which may have triggered a leak.

The EPA listed, among possible causes, an abandoned underground storage tank, a broken gas line, something flushed into the river, or something buried in a sandbar. Another possible cause might have been substances that leached out of an old landfill which used to be in that area.

The leak has been contained by booms, and Atkinson representatives continue to monitor it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Idaho’s snowpacks less than average

Snow surveyors from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) measured snowpacks around the state last week verifying that snowpacks are below average.

“We’ve been in an extended dry spell since around Thanksgiving Day,” said Ron Abramovich, Idaho NRCS Water Supply Specialist. “The stagnant weather pattern gave us blue skies during the day and clear skies at night for nearly 30 days.”

Twenty-two snow telemetry sites - the remotely located automated sites that record and transmit snowpack data – registered record low amounts of snow by Christmas Day.

Storms the last week of December finally pushed out the static weather pattern. The storms raised monthly precipitation measurements across the state but not enough to bring snowpacks to average levels. Northern Idaho snowpacks are the best at 75-90% of average for this time of year. Southern and central Idaho snowpacks range from 35 to 65% of average.

“Long term climate forecasts still predict La Niña conditions will bring above average precipitation to the Pacific Northwest for the next several months,” said Abramovich. “We need La Niña and 12 weeks of winter to salvage the year.”

Abramovich added that even if snowpacks remain below average this winter, there is excellent carryover water storage from last year for irrigation, power generation and other uses that rely on the snowpack for water supplies.

NRCS conducts snow surveys at the end of each month from December through May to make snow runoff predictions and water supply forecasts used in managing Idaho’s water resources.

For more information about snowpack, precipitation, runoff and water supplies for specific basins, please view the complete January 2012 Water Supply Outlook Report online at and click on the ‘Water Supply’ link.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eric MacEachern honored for service to ICA

Eric MacEachern is pictured with ICI-O Warden Terema Carlin, who nominated him for the Feldner Award.

The Idaho Correctional Association (ICA) has given its highest honor, the Feldner Award, to Eric MacEachern of Orofino, a former deputy warden at Idaho Correctional Institution-Orofino (ICI-O) who sought to protect the people of Idaho by giving offenders opportunities to change.

Eric “Mac” MacEachern began working for the Idaho Department of Correction as a correctional officer in January of 1985. He served in a variety of positions at ICI-O, including as a member of the department’s Correctional Emergency Response Team, before retiring as the institution’s deputy warden of programming in April.

“Mac was always loyal to IDOC and believed the job of any and all IDOC staff is to provide opportunity for change for the offenders and for each other,” says ICI-O Warden Terema Carlin during the award presentation on December 8 in the Statehouse rotunda. “Every day, Mac provided opportunities for the staff and the offenders to excel.”

MacEachern witnessed IDOC undergo dramatic change during the course of this 26-year career. In 1985, Idaho’s total prison population was 1,339. Today it is more than 7,600. 

Still, MacEachern says the department’s mission remains the same – to protect society while keeping IDOC staff and offenders safe. But he says his view on how to fulfill that mission has evolved.

 “It took me a long time to realize that just running the prison really wasn’t protecting society,” MacEachern says. “It was that kind of heart-to-heart programming and teaching and role modeling that the correctional officers and food staff do every day, because that that was what was going to protect society when people were released.”

The Idaho Correctional Association represents all correctional professionals in Idaho. The association’s Feldner Award for Lifetime Achievement is considered to be the Idaho criminal justice community’s highest honor.  The award honors a criminal justice professional who has shown excellence, dedication, loyalty, and leadership while in service to the citizens of Idaho. The award was created in memory of New Plymouth Police Officer Ronald Feldner who was shot and killed in 1994 while investigating a report of a stolen car.