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Roundtable Discussions

Representative Darrel Bolz reported:
The General Fund revenue for the state through August grew 6.0% from last year.  This is slightly more than the 5.4% revised revenue which was forecast by DFM and is $2.9 million more than anticipated.  September saw revenues come in 1.3% over the projection.  Year-to-date revenues are 1.0% above projection. Following July receipts which were below projection, both August and September saw revenues slightly above projection.

There has been a fair amount of discussion concerning the condition of I-84 between Caldwell and Nampa.  The interstate is full of patches and could stand to be repaired.  It was scheduled for 2019, but has been pulled of off that schedule due to the lack of funding.  One of the main concerns with this section of the interstate is that with the Treasure Valley being a major contributor to the economy of the state, the transportation infrastructure is critical to maintain to keep the economic activity in place.  This issue only points out the effect of the shortfall of transportation funding that ITD has stressed over the past few years. The legislature has looked at the issue previously, but has not come up with a way to fund the shortfall.

Jess Byrne, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality reported:
DEQ is currently working on a number of rulemakings. We have several of our own negotiated rulemakings that we are conducting as a result of state statute changes, federal regulation changes, and/or EPA or legal actions that have required us to update our rules. A few of these are very complex and represent significant workloads, for example, the update to Idaho’s water quality standards relating to fish consumption and human health criteria for toxics. This rulemaking involves a large amount of stakeholder participation and a significant amount of work associated with it. It is a multi-year process. In addition to development of our own rules, DEQ is currently involved in commenting on a couple very significant federal rule proposals. One of these rules relates to the definition of Waters of the US and the other involves the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. Both of these rules involve coordinating with a number of other Idaho agencies and require the investment of a significant amount of time on the part of the agency. The goal of the proposed greenhouse gas rule is to reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions by about 30% across the country. If the rule is finalized, it will require the state to develop a state plan, or even possibly joining other states to develop a regional plan, identifying how we will reduce our emissions by approximately 30%. Although Idaho only has two natural gas facilities directly impacted by this rule, it could have major implications for how power is generated nationally and subsequently for the rate payers in Idaho and all states for that matter.

DEQ is beginning the process of developing our application for delegation of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program from EPA. Legislation was passed earlier this year directing DEQ to develop a state-run program and submit an application to EPA by September 1, 2016. Ongoing state funding was also provided beginning in July for hiring 3 positions to initiate this process. Once approval is granted by EPA, the state-run program would be phased in over a number of years. It is currently estimated that it will take 25 positions and $2.5M to run the entire program. DEQ will provide many opportunities for stakeholder involvement throughout the entire process.

DEQ is beginning to experience some effects of what could be considered the leading edge of baby boomer retirements. In many cases this provides opportunities for upward movement within the agency and/or an infusion of new staff, however, it also poses challenges because of the loss of significant institutional knowledge, experience, and expertise. Many employees currently retiring have 20-30 years of service with the agency.

Today DEQ also sent out our annual request for Letters of Interest (LOI) to all eligible systems/facilities for our planning grants and low-interest SRF loans for drinking water and wastewater systems. All LOI forms must be submitted to DEQ on or before January 2, 2015. More information can be found at http://www.deq.idaho.gov/water-quality/grants-loans/fy-16-letter-of-interest-forms.aspx.

Art Beal, Idaho Association of RC&D Councils, reported:
There were reports from seven councils at the spring board meeting.  High Country RC&D (a ten county area in eastern Idaho) has been working with a Bonneville Power Ag Energy grant and with a Walmart grant continues to work the Ag Energy Program.  Their WUI (Wildland Urban Interface) project is moving forward with 40+ partners working on a fire resistant community.  Everywhere in the notes it is referred to as a fire sustainable community and I don’t think this is the outcome that is desired.  They got started with a fundraiser selling Idaho Tacos (baked potatoes) and a silent auction.

The Mid Snake RC&D has three major projects.  Educating communities about fire wise plants and planting, operating the invasive species station near Jackpot, Nevada, and administering the Coordinated Weed Management Areas (CWMA’s).

Southwest RC&D (four counties and a reservation) continues to work on the Snake River Water Trail improvements and mapping, wildfire mitigation project, wildfire gardens, and the Treasure Valley Canopy Study.  They are also working on Boise and Payette river water trails.

Three River RC&D told of their fire wise projects and the Aberdeen Gem walking trail.

Wood River RC&D is the fiscal agent for “Idaho Bounty” project, the Southern Idaho Bio Control Project where about 40 youth received training from an entomologist on how to work together on reporting requirements.  They are the fiscal agent with The Tri county weed control.

The northern RC&D are going through some consolidation.  Clearwater RC&D has been working with some Bio Control trails, a community food project and wildlife restoration with the Clearwater Basin Collaborative.

The West Central Highlands RC&D supports CWMA’s in several counties, works with the woody Bio mass funding and two different forest coalitions.  They spend time looking for historic preservation support.

Sharon Pratt, Executive Director for West Central Highlands RC&D was named President of the Idaho Association.  There is consideration being given to inviting the National RC&D Association to Idaho.

On the Ag side, work continues to fund the “Idaho One Plan” and work continues on the update of the Idaho Agricultural Pollution Abatement Plan.  The Ag community is concerned about the proposed IEP rural changes on waters of the United States.

Stephanie Cook, Idaho National Laboratory, reported:
What is The BIG?  It is a business competition started 2 years ago and INL was a co-founder.  Originally we had a “Community” competitive track and invited entrepreneurs, inventors, existing businesses, that may have a new business idea, product, or service which could be built into a viable business.  We had 27 entries (e.g., 1-3 page Executive Summary &/or business plan) from as far as Dubois to Inkom, and our winners and participants went on to the Idaho Innovation Awards, Tech Launch in Boise, have had patents issued, obtained follow on funding and are creating jobs in Idaho.

For 2015, we are expanding the competition to include four tracks:  Community, Collegiate, High School, and Diversity tracks!  The dates/deadlines have not yet been set, but we are looking at probably a January deadline for the submittals which would consist of a 1-3 page Executive Summary and a <2 minute video explaining the idea.  The actual semi-final and final competitions would probably be in mid-late February.  We are in need of applicants to compete, volunteers for mentoring and presentation rehearsals for semi- & finalists, screeners, judges, and prize donors.  For more information about the BIG Event, contact Stephanie Cook, Idaho National Laboratory, Program Manager, Technology Based Economic Development.

Across the state of Idaho, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory has purchased over $1 billon of lab equipment, office supplies, construction and other goods and services through subcontracts with Idaho businesses in the past decade. Since Battelle Energy Alliance began managing the lab in 2005, it has engaged in partnerships with hundreds of businesses throughout Idaho.

One of INL’s objectives is to target, shape and retain Idaho businesses as valued partners in supporting research happening at the lab. Each year, INL strives to spend at least 30 percent of the purchase of goods and services within the state of Idaho. INL has exceeded its 30 percent goal by spending 39 percent of the lab’s purchases in Idaho since 2005.

“We are proud to work with so many innovative Idaho businesses,” said Juan Alvarez, deputy laboratory director for Management. “We are very fortunate to work with high-caliber businesses that can support our needs right here in Idaho.”

As the third largest employer in the state, INL has a significant impact on the economy through its payroll and charitable contributions. Another large impact is made through the acquisition of goods and services within the state.

“I enjoy working with the Department of Energy and local Idaho businesses to find ways to leverage Idaho resources for national missions at INL,” said Stacey Francis, INL’s Small Business Program manager. “Across the entire state, we have created some very successful relationships with valuable partners to achieve our missions.”

INL is part of the DOE's complex of national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of the strategic goal areas of DOE: 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.

Tim Peterson, Office of Senator Jim Risch, reported:
Tim shared about transitioning into the Regional Director position for Senator Risch, previously held by Melinda Smyser. He discussed the local outreach to the County Commissioners in his ten county region. He was able to share and provide some clarity on the situation with ISIS and the funding vote for the continuing resolution and arming the rebels in Syria. The Senator has raised and continues to raise a number of questions about this strategy and the lack of answers to those questions and the continual outcry from his constituents against that move was the ultimate decision to vote against the measure. He gave a brief overview of the current funding bills expiration date and the likelihood of an omnibus spending bill or a deferred continuing resolution to the new congress next year.

Erik Kingston, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, reported:
Erik spoke on the tough issue of homelessness in Idaho.  IHFA and the Idaho Department of Commerce are conducting a Consolidated Planning public hearing from 4:30-5:30 October 22nd to gather comments input prior to drafting the 2015-2019 Five Year Consolidated Plan for the following programs in Idaho:  Emergency Solutions Grant Program, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, and the Community Development Block Grant program.  They have completed a Statewide Housing Needs Survey and a County-by-County Housing Market and Demographic Analysis Report (http://tinyurl.com/pq2lhal).  Thirty-seven hundred surveys were sent across the state with 470 responses returned.

There has been some negative press regarding people that live under the overpass near Rhodes Park off of 16th Street which is a huge issue for Boise, although every Idaho community faces it. Because of the lack of services in many rural areas, this drives those folks to Boise where they imagine they can finds jobs and housing.  This puts a lot of pressure on the case workers, law enforcement, education, and social services providers.

You can help! IHFA is gearing up for their annual Avenues for Hope Campaign (www.avenuesforhope.org), which will run from December 10th through December 31st.  The amount of money raised during this event is matched by the Idaho Housing and Finance Association board.  You can earmark your donation to a specific service provider or community.   Providers are entered into a contest which will could win them a $10,000 grant.

John Meyers, Department of Housing Urban and Development, reported:  
Julian Castro has been named the new secretary for HUD.  He has sent them guidance on their writing of their 2015 operating plan.  In Idaho they are down to a permanent staff of four and it will not grow.  Because of this there is the possibility the office will be moved to smaller quarters in January.    

Ann Joslin, Idaho Commission for Libraries, reported:
2014 Summer Reading Program – final numbers not in yet but some 94,000 Idaho kids participated in summer reading programs in public libraries and via outreach programs in parks, etc. Participation in summer reading programs helps prevent the "summer slide,” loss of reading skills over the summer.

“Smart Investing @ your Library” – a 2-year financial Literacy project in south central Idaho with funding from the FINRA Foundation. The Commission is coordinating 10 public libraries, College of Southern Idaho, Idaho Department of Finance, Idaho Financial Literacy Coalition, & other partners.  University of Idaho Extension curriculum is the basis of financial literacy programming in the public libraries in an area where more than 50% of families are under 200% of the poverty level. Partners help reach the target audience.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly visited the Lake Hazel Branch of the Ada Community Library.  We discussed broadband challenges in Idaho’s public libraries (lack of affordable, adequate, and scalable service), the Commission’s FY2016 budget request for funding to reimburse a portion of public library ISP charges, and the Commission’s MakeIt project in public libraries that is receiving national attention.

Joe Herring, Region IV Development Association, reported:
Region IV Development applied for a US Department of Commerce designation as a manufacturing community for the counties of Twin Falls, Jerome, Minidoka, and Cassia as these counties are very high in food processing.  The application did not make it through but they were debriefed by the Economic Development Administration last week and were told that they were not awarded by the skin of their teeth.  Good news is there will be another round in the near future.  They will be reapplying for that again.  This is not a direct monetary award but as a designed manufacturing community it will open up the probability of working directly with representatives of 13 other federal government agencies with direct funding from those agencies.

The statewide comprehensive economic development strategy has been completed by all six economic districts within the state.  It is now at the Department of Commerce for compilation as the first ever state economic development strategy.  It consists of the bases of the Governor’s three pillars to accelerate Idaho: (1) elevate industry, (2) strengthen communities, and (3) advance individuals.

Marjorie Schmaehl, Idaho Development, reported:
Marjorie and Harty continue to work on entrepreneur economic development by running their five Idaho LLCs in food service, lodging and rentals.  They have recently hired someone to manage their restaurant business with the expectation that this will reduce their daily workload.  They have made contact with a booking agent from Amsterdam that will bring more international interest to their lodge.  Hopefully this will bring tourists that will spend money in the Kamiah area. 

Harty Schmaehl, Idaho Development, reported:     
Currently things are going well in the Kamiah community.  Many folks are retiring and moving into the Kamiah area.  There are three lumber mills within a mile from each other in Kamiah that employ about 100-120 people.  One of these mills opened two or three years ago after being closed with the intent to be sold piece by piece, but someone stepped up and purchased it and it has been running ever since.  There are a couple of challenges in the Kamiah area.  Harty being a real estate broker can see the housing market is stale.  Prices to some extent have soften.  Because of the economy and social desperation illegal drug use and the challenges they bring to a community are being seen in the Kamiah area.  This is something he and Marjorie did not expect to see in this area when they moved to Idaho 15 years ago.

Representative Tom Dayley, Idaho State Legislature, reported:
Representative Dayley is the newest member to the IRP Board of Directors replacing Representative Bolz who retires in December.  Tom represents District 21 which is south central Ada County.  He has been involved with rural issues for many years as he has worked at the USDA and the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.