Wednesday, April 23, 2014

“The Best Dam Race in Idaho” is back

This map displays the route The Maniac race will take across Dworshak Dam.

By Kim S-Browning

On Saturday, May 31, “The Maniac, The Best Dam Race in Idaho” is back! Planning has been in the works for a quite awhile, and the race is ready to roll.

The Maniac offers runners and walkers two unique choices: either a 5K (3.1 miles) run/walk or a 3K (1.86 miles) run/walk experience. Participants will check-in at the Dworshak Viewpoint starting at 8 a.m., with the race beginning at 10 a.m.

Participants will follow along the outlined 3K or 5K course across the Dworshak Dam to the midpoint check-in station and then return along the course to the finish line where there will be food, drinks and other activities.

The race is open to all ages. The cost to pre-register is free for children under age five, $20 for adults, and $15 for youth ages 6 to 10. Participants can also register the day of the event, but the fee will increase $10 for race day registration. Participants 18 years of age or younger must have an adult present to sign a waiver the day of the event, and all participants must present a valid photo id the day of the race for security purposes.

All registration proceeds from this unique event will go back into the Orofino community through the operations of the Orofino Chamber of Commerce.

To pre-register, go to the Orofino Chamber of Commerce website, for the registration form, pick up a flyer at a local business or call the office at 208-476-4335 and we will get you the information you need!

Potlatch, DABCO, Clearwater Paper sued over Steep Corner Fire

The State of Idaho is suing an Idaho timber company and its contractor for their alleged involvement in the Steep Corner Fire two years ago; a fire that resulted in the death of 20-year-old firefighter Anne Veseth of Moscow, and burned more 310 acres north of Orofino.

The 56-acre fire began Aug. 10, 2012, 56 miles from Orofino, on a private logging site, and burned both public and private land.

The 11-page lawsuit alleges five counts of negligence and nuisance, and names Potlatch Land and Lumber, Potlatch Forest Holdings, Clearwater Paper Corp., Potlatch Corp., and DABCO Inc., a logging contractor based in Kamiah, as defendants.

The suit doesn’t specify a monetary amount, but does allege that the state spent more than $10,000 fighting the Steep Corner Fire.

According to the lawsuit, the fire began after an incident in which a DABCO logging crew used a cable yarding system that employed a mechanized carriage. The carriage had an internal combustion engine, and according to the suit, the carriage’s spark arrester did not meet Forest Service standards, which are required by law.

When a choker (used to carry logs beneath the carriage) broke while it was under high tension, the carriage swung violently and then flipped, spilling hot metal and carbon from the muffler into dry slash. Sparks from this allegedly caused the fire, according to an Idaho Department of Lands investigation.

The logging crew, despite its attempts to building a fire line and dump water on the fire, was unable to suppress the fire.

The Idaho Department of Lands, as part of an agreement with C-PTPA and the Forest Service, sent fire crews to control and suppress the blaze, thus incurring firefighting-related expenses, according the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants used equipment that was illegal and not properly maintained, and that they failed to take precautions necessary to prevent a fire hazard.

It is unclear at this time why Clearwater Paper was named in the lawsuit.

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 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 People wanting reserve sites must make reservations via toll free number (877) 444-6777 or online at

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