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

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

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

“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:

See the excitement the fish trailers generate in kids by watching this short video:

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.