Friday, April 26, 2013

Essential Idaho exhibit kicks off a year long celebration

By Alannah Allbrett

The Idaho State Historical Museum celebrates the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Idaho Territory with a special exhibition entitled Essential Idaho. The exhibition features “things that make the Gem State unique” with contributions from every county.

The territory’s sesquicentennial celebration features rare artifacts, hands-on learning stations, and compelling stories about Idaho’s history, geography, and culture. It is one of the largest exhibitions ever shown at the museum.

Lin and Merk Cannell, Orofino, as contributors to the project, were invited to a kick off reception in Boise March 15. Lin had the distinction of being one among hundreds of contributors who was chosen for her nomination of William and Isabel Craig as an important part of Idaho history.

Lin tells of a highway sign on Hwy. 195, near Winchester, about William Craig – an early pioneer, which sparked her curiosity and the subsequent publishing of a book by her entitled: The Intermediary, William Craig among the Nez Perces – published by Ridenbaugh Press.

Lin and Merk, both native Idahoans, enjoyed the reception and exhibit. Lin hopes to go back to “prowl at my leisure” as she says. She commended the curators as having done an excellent job.

One of Craig’s descendents attended the opening of the exhibition – a great, great grandchild, Bill Bellknap. Another great, great, great granddaughter, Gloria Manning of Puyallup, WA, contacted Lin while she was writing the book. Lin said she helped for many years with the research.

The exhibit will continue through December 31. Clearwater County has its own unique exhibit to view. The Idaho State Historical Museum is located at 610 N. Julia Davis Drive – Julia Davis Park, Boise. More information may be found by clicking on the link: Idaho at 150, at: The museum’s phone number for general information is: (208) 334-2120.

Forests’ restoration project may yield large timber volumes

According to Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests Supervisor Rick Brazell, the Clear Creek Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) is now available for public review and comment. The plan is proposing a schedule of work that would, among other goals, produce large timber volumes. This is a result of a restoration project that is the outcome of a five-year-old collaborative process.

A draft of the Clear Creek Environmental Impact Statement proposes to restore forests and streams in a 44,000 acre area five miles southeast of Kooskia. The project would include timber harvesting, road obliteration, culvert replacement and prescribed fire.

According to the site District Ranger Joe Hudson says the Clear Creek proposal is notable because it represents a new way of doing business as prescribed by the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. The proposal, in being consistent with the program proposals, was developed collaboratively, and considers a larger area and more extensive restoration treatments than most agency analyses. He also says that this approach should be more efficient and will allow for more meaningful outcomes on the land.

The timber sales could produce 60 million to 85 million board feet of timber and possibly create 1,500 to 2,000 jobs. This would be done with multiple timber sales and would be carried out over several years. Hudson stressed that the outputs from the DEIS are products of science-based restoration activities and will make a positive difference for both the environment and people.

Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC) reports it backs the decision by the forest service for this extensive work. CBC is a panel of representatives from several groups including county commissioners, conservation groups and the timber industry. These groups have been working alongside the Forest Service to find the most effective way the forest can be managed.

According to Clearwater County Commissioner Stan Leach, “The Clear Creek Project is a bold new direction in landscape scale forest management. The roots of this project lead back to the CBC and CFLRA (Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act.) CFLRA legislation made available additional money to support forest activities in areas that had established collaborative groups like the CBC.

The CBC applied for and was awarded over 30 million dollars over a 10 year period to design and implement projects in the Clearwater Basin. This project has the unanimous support of all the CBC members. It includes restoration activities and weed treatments to stop the spread of noxious weeds, along with timber harvest to improve forest health and help re-establish white pine.

There are 15 living wage jobs created or maintained for every million board feet of timber harvested according to a University of Idaho study. These jobs, combined with the others created through restoration activities, will be a huge boost to the economy of our region.”

Robyn Miller, a member of The Nature Conservancy and Clearwater Basin Collaborative, said the groups are pleased the agency has released such a comprehensive plan for the Clear Creek area. She was quoted as saying, “While recognizing that this project will continue to evolve with ongoing public input, we believe the proposal outlined in the Clear Creek DEIS is a great starting point that addresses the ecological needs of the Clear Creek drainage and the economic needs of the surrounding communities.”

The DEIS describes a “no action alternative” and three action alternatives. All three action alternatives include 1371 acres of prescribed burning, 1887 acres of precommercial thinning, 119.8 miles of system road construction and replacement of 77 undersized culverts.

The plan would include thinning stands of timber that were planted in the 1960s and 1970s following clear-cuts. It would also include regeneration harvest in places where years of fire suppression has caused a dense and unnatural mix of timber. Regeneration harvest is comparable to clear-cutting but leaves places of live trees and some dead trees for wildlife habitat. It will be similar to a fire pattern and does not look like a standard clear-cut.

The goal is to create a mix of young forests that supply habitat for animals and to leave places of older forests that would provide cover to other species of trees, including larch and ponderosa pine. Douglas fir and grand fir would be the main species to be logged. Logging will avoid old growth timber and roadless areas with no permanent roads being constructed. Thirty-six miles of temporary roads would be constructed and 120 miles of existing road would be reconstructed.

The size of the timber volume would exceed the annual total harvest that has been produced from the Forest Service from all of its timber sales in recent years. Much of the road obliteration and culvert replacement has already been completed. This will benefit fish and water quality.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and CBC developed a comprehensive science-based restoration approach for the 1.4 million-acre Selway-Middle Fork area in 2010 and submitted it for funding through the national Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program. It was one of 10 project initially selected, making it eligible to receive up to $4 million annually for up to 10 years.

Since its selection the project has been awarded over $8.5 million dollars which have been used to implement a number of critical projects to restore the watershed, treat weeds and reduce hazardous fuels. The Clear Creek proposal is the first large-scale integrated resource project to be implemented as part of this program.

A description of the project and a link to the draft environmental impact statement is available under the Recent News tab on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest’s website at The Clear Creek DEIS is available online at, or it can be obtained by contacting Interdisciplinary Team Leader Lois Hill at 208-935-4258. Project presentations can also be requested through District Ranger Joe Hudson at 208-926-8930 or CFLRP coordinator Mike Ward at 208-926-6413.

Comments regarding the Clear Creek proposal are due within 45 days of the publication of the Notice of Availability in the Federal Register which was scheduled to be published on or about April 19.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New Idaho law provides property tax exemption for businesses

Due to a new tax law (House Bill 315) that takes effect immediately, businesses can exempt the first $100,000 of their personal property value under one ownership in any county. Businesses with locations in more than one county in Idaho can exempt up to $100,000 of the personal property value in each county in which the property is located.

Businesses with property in multiple locations in one county have until May 1, 2013, to submit location election forms to their county assessor(s) if they want to choose the location (s) of the exempt property.

Businesses will receive the exemption based on the personal property lists (declarations) already required to be filed with the county assessor. If a business doesn’t have multiple locations or doesn’t want to elect a particular location, there are no additional filing requirements.

Location election forms are available from county assessors or from the Idaho State Tax Commission website at

Personal property generally is mobile and includes furniture and office equipment. This exemption does not apply to buildings and structures, and some personal property doesn’t qualify for this exemption. For example, the exemption does not include mobile and manufactured homes. Questions can be directed to your local county assessor – or to Alan Dornfest, (208) 334-7742 or Rick Anderson, (208) 332-6624 in the Tax Commission’s Property Tax Division.

Restrictions on job search requirements to be enforced

The Idaho Department of Labor is reinforcing its 12-week limit on the period during which laid-off workers will be considered likely to be called back to their jobs. This so-called job-attached status, usually the result of seasonal shutdowns in various industries, relieves workers from looking for new jobs to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.

“We will no longer have exceptions to this rule,” Benefits Bureau Chief Josh McKenna said. “This is part of our continued effort to focus on claimants as job seekers.”
The decision follows a department analysis that found an excessive number of claimants failing to make the required two job contacts a week to continue receiving unemployment benefits. Since January, the department has denied weekly benefits to 231 claimants for failing to conduct the required work search. During the first three months of 2011, denials for failure to conduct work search totaled 158.

With Idaho’s job market showing continued signs of recovery-the number of non-farm jobs in January and February was two percent higher than a year earlier-opportunities for employment are expanding, McKenna said.

Reinforcing the 12-week limit on job-attached status eliminates the difficulty-and often inequity-of assessing seasonal conditions that vary significantly from one region of the state to another, and the intensified emphasis on returning claimants to work protects the state’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, which went broke in 2009 because of the increased demand for benefits during the recession.

“We aren’t saying that these folks can’t go back to their prior employer, but rather they need to look for and find work during the time they are off,” McKenna said. “It may be in an occupation opposite their normal industry-for example, a landscaper goes to work at the local ski resort. There are available jobs out there right now.”

Idaho’s 12-week limit on job-attached status is greater than four of the border states-Utah at 10 weeks, Washington at eight, Nevada at six and Oregon at four.

“This is a nationwide trend,” McKenna said. “These are our expectations and they need to look for work to be eligible for benefits.

To gain job-attached status, unemployment benefit claimants must have a return-to-work date within 12 weeks of their layoff or hours reduction. If their return-to-work date is beyond 12 weeks, they must look for new full-time work to remain eligible for benefits.

School Board approves maintenance and operating levy

By Danielle Hardy, Trustee

The District 171 School Board approved the 2013-2014 maintenance and operating school levy for $2,285,000. That is an increase of $345,000 from last year’s levy. Voters will decide on the levy May 21, 2013.

Superintendent Bob Vian presented information to the school board on the needs of the district that will be met with current funds and those that will be met if the levy passes.  Current funds will be used to replace the Orofino Elementary School boiler, paint the exterior of Timberline, and replace the bus barn roof. These are issues that must be done now in order to prevent further costs in repairs.

Next year’s increase will help to provide full time kindergarten in Orofino, update technology district-wide, and maintain the current staff. Vian explained that voters have approved the annual levy for many years and stated “we are fortunate to have a community that supports education”.

Tax payers will see an increase of $2.71 per month (on an assessed value of $100,000) for the increased levy. Even with the increase, Orofino still has a low per student cost of $1,637. In comparison, Nez Perce has a rate of $3,248 per student cost.

While the State of Idaho constitution requires that the state provide for a complete and thorough education for all of Idaho’s children, funding has steadily decreased. As a result, local communities have had to make up for the difference. Of the 115 Idaho school districts, more than two out of three request local levies each year to supplement state funding.

A recent study done by the non-partisan, non-profit organization Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy outlines how much public school funding has changed since 1980. You can read the study by going to and going to the “reports” link at the bottom.

Anyone with questions on the budget is strongly encouraged to contact the district office at (208) 476-5933, which is open Monday through Friday.

You can also go to the district website at sd171. to view various budget reports, including an updated year-to-date budget (go to “Finances and Public Reports” link on the left side of the homepage).

In addition, a series of informational presentations on the district budget will be given to a variety of community organizations by Superintendent Vian to educate the public on the importance of supporting the levy.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Federal government wants Idaho school funds back

The federal government has sent a letter to the governor’s office demanding a return of 5.1 percent of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funds that were distributed to counties, highway districts, schools, and Resource Advisory Committees (RAC’s) across Idaho. 

The letter allows the Governor’s office two options: a) the money can be collected back from all the receiving entities at 5.1 percent, or b) 5.1 percent of the total can be withheld from the Resource Advisory Committees.

In an effort to protect the taxpayers of Clearwater County, the commissioners sent a letter to the governor requesting that he choose the second option. If the monies were withheld from the tax supported entities it could result in higher property taxes.
The RAC’s don’t receive any local property tax dollars. The RAC’s were established as part of the original legislation that started payments to local entities to compensate them for revenue losses caused by cutbacks in logging on federal forest lands. RAC’s are made up of representatives from a wide variety of groups interested in the management activities on the forest. The RAC’s get a percentage of the secure rural schools’ money each year to spend on special projects on the National Forest.  
This is the last payment under the Secure Rural Schools legislation, and the odds of getting it reauthorized are looking dismal. The tax supported entities who just received their last check are facing significant revenue shortfalls in the next fiscal year. Clearwater County’s portion is over $550,000, all of which goes into the road department. The local highway district and schools receive lesser amounts.  
When asked to comment on the return of SRS dollars, Commissioner Stan Leach said, “This is indicative of the state of affairs in Washington, D.C. right now. The federal government is going back on its promise that it made to support roads and schools when the forests were put into reserve in 1908. So, not only can we not count on that support into the future, we can’t even cash the checks that have already been sent. This really points out the need for more active forest management so that we can pay our own way and not have to count on the whims of Washington, D.C.”  
There are several efforts underway to increase forest management. Commissioner Don Ebert is working as part of the Clearwater Basin Collaborative to accomplish this. Commissioner Leach is working with the other county commissioners around the state to establish a Community Forest Trust, where a portion of forest lands would be managed on a sustainable basis with generated revenues helping to offset some of the shortfalls created by expiration of the SRS legislation.  
There is also an effort to authorize another SRS type bill, but even that would only be a temporary fix.

“A permanent solution has to be found,” said the commissioners, “because even if the SRS funds stop coming, the needs that those funds pay for will not.”

Forest Service negotiating with OSHA over Steep Corner Fire citations and fines

U.S. Forest Service officials are negotiating with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over citations and fines levied against the agency following the death of a firefighter last August on the Steep Corner Fire near Headquarters. Anne Veseth, 20, Moscow, was killed when she was struck by a falling tree.

According to an OSHA spokeswoman Forest Service officials have disagreed with the conclusions that violations occurred during the fire. OSHA fined the Forest Service and Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association, which was managing the fire, $14,000 each for alleged violations. A settlement was reached between OSHA and C-PTPA last month, with the citation being revised and the fine reduced from $14,000 to $10,500.

The Forest Service released an investigative report of its own following OSHA’s citation. The Forest Service’s report contrasted OSHA’s report. The Forest Service’s report concluded that the judgment and decisions of the firefighters involved in the fire were appropriate and there were no reckless actions or violations of policy or protocol.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Orofino City Park improvements

By Alannah Allbrett

A motion passed at the March 26 Orofino City Council meeting to replace the jungle gym toy in City Park which was destroyed approximately one and one half years ago when it was struck by a vehicle.

The new jungle gym will be larger and placed in a safer location. The city was reimbursed $3,000, which amount will be put towards the $4,848 total cost for the entire project, including shipping, sprinkler relocation, and installation.

It was decided that there is not enough room in the park to include a sand volleyball court.

The Recreation Committee recommended that the horseshoe pit be removed as it has fallen into disuse.

New and refurbished trash cans have been placed throughout the city and the park by Public Works.

Public Works Supervisor, John Barton said they are trying to get water turned on in the park by Easter weekend. Freezing temperatures at night have delayed it.

A new camera system for the park will not be obtained until next year. Chief Wilson is seeking grant funds for that project.

The final activity calendar for the park was submitted.

Petitions, applications

Mitch Marx, of Presnell and Gage, presented findings on the city audit for the fiscal year ending Sept., 30, 2012. The city automatically falls into a “high risk” category because no audit had been done for two years. He reminded the council that statements are the responsibility of the city.

Water treatment project

An amendment to the original loan offer agreement was made by the Idaho Dept. of Environmental Quality. The amendment reflects a change in the original project costs from $8,490,375 to $9,690,375.

A motion was passed to award Allwest Testing & Engineering of Lewiston, the construction project for the new membrane water treatment plant. The company has been used in the past for work at the airport.

Downtown parking

Cathie Mosher, on behalf of downtown businesses, has made two recent visits to council to discuss parking issues. Under the current policy vehicles may legally park for 12 hours without being cited. This blocks people visiting businesses. Mosher said businesses welcome the council’s discussion of this issue. The issue remains with the Street Committee.


The city has received a replacement dog for the K-9 program. Officer Mike Shore just returned from extensive training in Kansas and was offered the chance for a replacement dog if, in working with various dogs, he found one that was a better match. The new Orofino K-9 dog, “Testo,” was determined to be of milder temperament and had the training needed to assist officers in Orofino.

Future meetings

The Orofino City Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday, at 6 p.m. at the council chambers, 217 1st St., Orofino.

Reserve Dent Acres campsites at Dworshak Dam at this season

Campers are invited by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Dworshak Dam and Reservoir to reserve campsites at Dent Acres Campground using the reservation system. Reservations can be made for camping dates May 23 or later, though the campground opens on April 11 on a first-come, first-served basis.

Visitors can make reservations for Dent Acres Campground, Group Camp, and Picnic Shelter at, or call at (877) 444-6777. Dent Acres campsite fees are $10 per night via self-deposit registration for April 11 – May 22. Reserved campsites beginning May 23 are $18 per night. The Group Camp is $50 per night, and the Picnic Shelter is $25 for the day.

Dent Acres boat ramp was opened for public use on Monday, March 11.

For updated Dworshak 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 Dworshak Dam Visitor Center, which is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Enjoy spring and summer recreation in scenic northern Idaho at Dworshak. Be sure to make your reservations for a camping spot!

Corps of Engineers and Fish & Game sponsor educational evening

By Bruce Henrickson, Public Affairs Specialist, USACE Walla Walla District

About 35 people attended the Idaho Fish and Game Open House on Wednesday evening, March 27, at the Best Western Lodge at River's Edge. The purpose was to update the public and answer any questions about the Corps-IDFG partnership effort to improve Dworshak Reservoir ecosystem's health by adding nutrients in the form of fertilizer.

The Corps has all necessary permissions from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to add fertilizer as a nutrient. Improvements seen in the past year include increases in zooplankton size, which is part of the fishery food chain, and the data is showing a relationship between fertilizer additions and decreases in Anabeana Blue-Green algae. We also met all water quality standards and had better water clarity than all previous years during the project.

More interested fishermen came that had heard of the project in previous years, but had not participated in any of the discussions with the Corps and Idaho Fish and Game and the Corps. They indicated they were in favor of the project if it helps produce fish like they have been catching last year, and so far this year has been very positive. I also had a number of bass fishermen interested in connections between bass fishing quality, bass size and the project.

The open house has been annual public event in the interest of keeping the public informed of what the Corps is doing to improve the reservoir.

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