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Roundtable Discussions

Daryl Bolz reported:
Groundbreaking for the Indian Creek Plaza in downtown Caldwell was held Monday, April 10th.  McAlvain Group, Boise has been chosen to move into a contract for construction of the project.  Construction is to begin in late spring or early summer.  This is all possible due to a BID (Business Improvement District).

Reel Theatre has committed to construction of an 11-screen theatre in downtown Caldwell.  Construction timelines are still being finalized.

The Saratoga Hospitality Group will soon begin the construction of an 80-room boutique hotel with a 200+ person conference space in downtown Caldwell.

There is hope that the legislature’s approval of the GARVEE funding that the stretch of I-84 between Karcher and Caldwell (Franklin Exit) will be widened.  As a major economic transportation corridor it is important to do this work.  With housing costs being less than Boise, Canyon County is a home to many whom work in Boise and transportation issues are extremely important.


Art Beal, Idaho Association of RC&D Councils, reported:
The Weed Conference spent about a half a day on pollinators and what we are doing to ourselves.  We farm from edge to edge now and so there aren’t places for pollinators that used to be along the edge of the fields.  It was suggested we should be looking at idle land for pollinator habitat and plant it with pollinators in mind.  Also look around the buildings for places for habitat.  I know that is where the weeds grow maybe we can change that through management.

The main speaker at the Ag Summit, Michele Payn, reminded us GMO’s are about 8,000 years old with the introduction of a fungus in sweet potatoes.  She asked us why we farm with the long hours, days, and months of total involvement.  Was it the need to produce?  The independence?  The passion of providing food for your family?  Or the compassion for caring for the land?  Or just to see it productive?  You can answer by what you get passionate about.  You need to tell your passion on a one to one, not like I am doing here to the group but with friends.  We need to let them know how the milk got to the refrigerator.

What I really want to visit about is the nearly 190,000 acre Pioneer Fire and the Boise Forest Coalition response to it and the follow up management of what’s left.  The fire has only been declared out since December.  Most of the soil was burned very hot damaging it.  The fire was so large it has been broken down into two watersheds for recovery purposes; the area south of Highway 21 and north of Highway 21.

The areas along streams will be treated just like there was no fire except where trails exist.  Then cutting will happened to keep people safe from dead trees.  All told there could be about 50 million board feet that could be removed.

Because the south half of the fire is a high public use area, a lot of activity making the area safe for people has taken place to include felling trees along use roads and trails, even to the extent of timber harvest in the Pine Flat area out of Loman.  Much of the area is roadless so we’ll let nature do its recovery.  There will be some areas that because of burn severity will have to be hand planted before anything returns.  The Coalition recommended the forest service take a hard look at cumulative effects, not just at the fire but downstream in the two watersheds. 

This fire and others like the Soda Fire indicate we are not managing our natural resources in the best public interest.  I don’t have a solution, only that we need to look at the management of the last 100+ years and take lessons from what went on that protected the environment.  We have to live in the environment that is here.

The Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership (IFRP) met to discuss how well coalitions are working as well as other issues.  Some of the questions posed were: What do you expect out of the forests?  What should a resilient forest look like?  What is the goal for the forests?  Does resiliency mean old growth?  The current forest plan is not a growth and yield.  There are 19 million acres of forest and 39% is in the mid Rockies.  How do we manage forests that have almost 40 years of fuel buildup and a dry cycle.  Overall, coalitions are the result of varied interests making recommendations to forest management to protect the resource.

The Idaho Association of Soil Conservation Districts is celebrating 75 years of service for Soil and Water Conservation Districts this year.  I have about 1,000 pictures of people with a passion for the land, water, and related resources as well as a time line of events leading to now and would be willing to share later in the year with IRP.


Brian Dale, US Housing and Urban Development, reported:
On March 30, 2017, HUD welcomed our new Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson.

HUD staff and the Idaho Fair Housing Forum hosted the Fair Housing Accessibility FIRST training in Boise on March 14.  Including webcast sites in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls and Pocatello, the event drew 133, most of whom were architects.

HUD staff and the Idaho Fair Housing Forum has also scheduled a fair housing education workshops throughout the state.   Workshops are scheduled in:   Boise (April 28), Rexburg (May 2), Idaho Falls (May 3), Twin Falls (May 15 – unconfirmed), Moscow (May 22) and Lewiston (May 23).  A previous event that drew 68 was held on March 17 in Coeur d’Alene.  To find an event, go to: https://hud.gov/emarc/index.cfm?fuseaction=emar.registerEventSearch

The preliminary 2017 Idaho Point in Time (PIT) Count found 2088 total homeless persons, 1449 who were sheltered and 639 who were unsheltered. Of these numbers, the Boise City/Ada County PIT Count found 884 total homeless persons, 773 who were sheltered and 111 who were unsheltered.

The 2017 Balance of State PIT Count (all but Ada County) found 1204 total homeless persons, 676 who were sheltered and 528 who were unsheltered.  These numbers compare to the 2016 Balance of State PIT Count that identified 1380 total homeless persons, 767 who were sheltered and 613 who were unsheltered.  Weather played a part in the overall lower numbers this year.

On June 29, 2017, HUD’s Anchorage Field Office will host a Regional Meeting of the Housing Recovery Support Function.  Primary Agencies, Supporting Organizations, and State and Local Housing Providers from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington will meet in a plenary session via teleconference, then states may host breakout sessions.

FEMA has released two pre-disaster planning guides to help prepare for recovery:

Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Guide for State Governments

FEMA designed these planning guides to help states and territories prepare for recovery by developing pre-disaster recovery plans that follow a process to engage members of the whole community, develop recovery capabilities across state government and nongovernmental partners, and ultimately create an organizational framework for comprehensive State recovery efforts.

Pre-Disaster Recovery Planning Guide for Local Governments

This Guide is designed for local governments to help them to prepare for recovery from future disasters by engaging with the whole community and planning for a recovery activities that are comprehensive and long term.

Barbara Petty, University of Idaho – Extension, reported:
During the past year, 67 county Extension educators located in 42 of our 44 counties, 15 Area Extension Educators and 54 specialists made 360,258 direct teaching contacts addressing topics in agriculture,natural resources, health and nutrition, community development and 4-H youth development.  We leveraged the support given to us by the federal, state and county governments by working on projects that were supported by $8.8 million.  We have nearly 400,000 hits on our web pages with 30% of them being accessed by a mobile device.

When I became the Director of Extension last summer, my first goal was to conduct a needs assessment.  We started with a survey of our current employees.  We hosted listening sessions in six locations across the state: Coeur d’Alene, Lewiston, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls, and Boise.  For our more rural counties, we hosted an electronic listening session with the program being delivered from my office in Moscow and the local Extension educators facilitating the discussions at their locations.  Seven rural counties participated in this option.  Additionally, three more counties held their own listening session.  We also emailed a survey to county commissioners and to stakeholders.  The salient theme from these opportunities for input were:

  • water issues,
  • weed management,
  • agricultural/farmer education programs (general),
  •  local/community-scale food systems,
  • gardening/horticulture,
  • health/wellness (general),
  • healthy food/nutrition,
  • food preservation,
  • youth programs (4-H and beyond)
  •  increase awareness of UI Extension programs.

We have taken the input from our stakeholders and are in the process of developing our strategic plan.

I am excited about our future as we are addressing the requests of our stakeholders.

Jim Werntz, Environmental Protection Agency, reported:
Agriculture Forum:   EPA Region 10 will host the 2017 Ag Forum on Thursday, April 13th, in the regional office in Seattle. This meeting is an annual opportunity for state environmental and agriculture agency directors, NRCS State Conservationists, and Executive Directors of state conservation commissions to meet in person and discuss important agriculture and environmental issues that each state and agency are addressing. EPA Region 10 has hosted the Regional Ag Forum for approximately 10 years and they have helped foster candid, collaborative, and productive conversations with our state and federal agency partners on agriculture related environmental issues including pesticides and water quality. Ken Wagner, Senior Advisor to the Administrator for Regional and State Affairs and Director of the Office of Regional Operations, will meet with several of our state partners prior to the forum.

School Food Share:   On April 19th, EPA is convening a meeting with Idaho Health and Welfare/Food Protection Program, Idaho Department of Education, and the Idaho Food Bank, to explore how Idaho may want to start a School Food Share Program.  Many schools have a large amount of food that is thrown out by students untouched, and by recovering that food and providing it to the food bank, what is now wasted can help fight hunger.

Stephanie Cook, Idaho National Laboratory, reported via email:
IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director, announced today the appointment of Dr. Noël Bakhtian as director of the Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) effective May 15, 2017. Bakhtian has most recently served as senior policy advisor for environment and energy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

“Dr. Bakhtian’s energy policy and technical experiences span the programmatic portfolio of CAES,” said Peters. “She will help forward the CAES mission of conducting advanced energy research, educating the next generation of scientists and engineers, and partnering with industry to advance our regional competitiveness.”

Prior to OSTP, she served as the inaugural Energy-Water Nexus lead at the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of International Affairs, worked as technical lead on numerous innovative grant programs for DOE’s Wind and Water Power Technologies Office, consulted on energy R&D and investment for DARPA, served as an energy and environment fellow in the U.S. Senate, and worked as a graduate researcher at NASA Ames Research Center.

She also serves as a trustee of the Summer Science Program, a science education nonprofit organization, and is the energy and environment associate editor for the Science & Diplomacy Journal.

Bakhtian earned a doctorate in engineering at Stanford University's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics; holds master’s degrees from Stanford University and the University of Cambridge, where she was a Churchill Scholar; and completed a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Duke University, where she was a Pratt Fellow.

Bakhtian succeeds Mike Hagood, who has been serving as acting director of CAES.

CAES is a research and education consortium between Boise State University, Idaho National Laboratory, Idaho State University, University of Idaho and University of Wyoming.

INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

See more INL news at www.inl.gov. Follow @INL on Twitter or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/IdahoNationalLaboratory.