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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

There’s another ground floor being built in Cheney


It seemed as if last night was a good night to watch a college basketball game live. It was. Read on.

Court orders Idaho to pay more than $400K in attorney fees, costs

The state of Idaho must pay more than $400,000 in attorney fees and costs to the lawyers who represented the four lesbian couples who successfully sued to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, a federal court has ruled. “There is no dispute that Plaintiffs are the prevailing parties and are therefore entitled to an award of reasonable attorney fees and litigation expenses,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Candy Dale, in an order issued late Friday. More here. Betsy Russell, EOB


Idaho Secretary of State Ysursa to retire after 40-year career

BOISE - After 40 years in state government, Ben Ysursa has some strong opinions about how things ought to work in Idaho – and how, on occasion, they have.

For example, when both of the state’s political parties came together, working side by side, they successfully passed a ballot measure to create the College of Western Idaho, now the state’s fastest-growing community college.

“It was just gratifying to see it,” Ysursa said. “We need to get a cause like that again, that we can all agree on and go forward with. … It was a good joint effort to see how things can work when politics is out of it, so to speak.” More. Betsy Russell, SR


Federal lands transfer could cost Idaho $111 million a year

PUBLIC LANDS — Aside from probably being unconstitutional, and certainly being stupid and greedy, Idaho's effort to take over federal lands within the state's borders also would probably be unaffordable.  Of course, unless the state sold off the lands to corporations.

Here's the report posted before today's meeting in Boise:

By KIMBERLEE KRUESI/Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho  — Taking control of federal public lands in Idaho could cost the state $111 million a year, a new report shows.

The study by the University of Idaho’s Policy Analysis Group found the state could lose millions of dollars in eight of nine different scenarios involving such a transfer.

Researchers compared various financial benefits for the state’s timber industry to increased costs connected with management of the land.

The report was requested by a legislative committee tasked under a resolution known as HR22 with studying a state takeover of federal lands in Idaho. The panel will finalize its recommendation today (Dec. 9, 2014).

Supporters of a land transfer claim timber harvests would boom under state management. Meanwhile, opponents say the boost in revenue would do little to offset the millions of dollars needed for land management expenses.

Researchers only saw a profit of $24 million a year in one scenario. In that case, Idaho would have to boost its harvest by 1 billion board-feet of timber a year and sell it at $250 per 1,000 board-feet of lumber.

Under the worst-case scenario, Idaho would increase its harvest sales by half a billion board-feet and would sell it at $150 per 1,000 board-feet. This would result in $35 million of revenue a year and $146 million of costs, resulting a loss of $111 million a year.

In 2012, the Idaho Forest Group reported that Idaho harvested roughly 145,000 board-feet of timber.

“The question becomes, after you consider the timber markets, is how are these lands going to be managed?” said Jay O’Laughlin, who wrote the report shortly after retiring as director of the research group. “That’s going to determine the cost structure and the revenues.”

O’Laughlin said the state would face steep wildfire prevention and suppression costs if it takes control of federal lands.

Currently, Idaho relies on federal firefighters to put out wildfires on state lands. By taking control of the federal lands, Idaho would be in charge of providing enough staffing and equipment to suppress the state’s largest wildfires.

Idaho would also be responsible for payments the federal government now doles out to help offset losses in property taxes from nontaxable federal land within their boundaries.

“The question whether payments to counties should continue is likely to spark lively debate,” O’Laughlin wrote in the report.

O’Laughlin and his researchers only studied the cost of managing 16.4 million acres of the 34 million acres of public lands in Idaho now managed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The group chose not to include Idaho’s legally protected roadless areas and wild river corridors.

The exclusion sparked criticism from the Idaho Conservation League.

Economist Evan Hjerpe, working on behalf of the conservation group, said that HR 22 does not explicitly outline which federal lands should or should not be transferred. Instead, the conservation group believes the resolution requires the state to manage 28 million acres of public lands.

Hjerpe also wrote that O’Laughlin’s report failed to include the transition costs of taking over federal lands.

“The initial costs have been estimated elsewhere at almost $2 billion dollars of loss to the state of Idaho,” Hjerpe wrote in his review. “In conclusion, the PAG report suffers from a number of deficiencies and has only quantified part of the fiscal cost to the state of Idaho.”

O’Laughlin responded that his direction from the committee was to only study the costs once the transfer was completed. Anything else, he said, would be too confusing.

The legislative committee was formed after Idaho lawmakers passed the resolution in 2013 demanding that the federal government cede most of the public lands it oversees in Idaho to the state.

Soon after, two contradictory reports were published offering different estimates on how much the endeavor would cost. The Idaho Conservation League declared the state would lose money, while the Idaho Department of Lands said Idaho would gain money.

Idaho sockeye salmon success could be blueprint

FISHING — The fishing scene is roughly beginning to resemble the good-ol' days on the Snake-Salmon river systems of Idaho.

You've read about the spring and fall chinook plus the coho comeback this year.

Here's the latest good news on sockeye recovery.

By KEITH RIDLER/Associated Press

BOISE — Strategies used to bring back from the brink of extinction a population of central Idaho sockeye salmon have been so successful they could be used as a blueprint to prevent other extinctions, fisheries biologists say.

Thomas Flagg of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Paul Kline of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game published their findings earlier this month in the journal Fisheries.

Scientists said a key strategy has been maintaining genetic diversity that has resulted in a greater number of sockeye with better survival skills, resulting in more fish returning to Redfish Lake.

“The survival advantages and apparent rapid increased fitness demonstrated by Sockeye Salmon hatched in Redfish Lake have allowed the development of realistic population triggers for the program’s expansion effort,” the report said. “This type of natural rebuilding scenario is the hoped for result when conservationists intervene to rescue depleted populations.”

Depleted in this case has a very precise number — 16. That’s how many wild adults — 11 males and five females — returned to the Sawtooth Valley from 1991 to 1998 and, through hatchery programs, ultimately produced more than 10,000 adult descendants.

The results showed this fall as some 1,400 endangered sockeye made the 900-mile journey from the Pacific Ocean to the lake in the Stanley Basin. That’s more than in any previous year going back nearly six decades.

The report estimates that at one time some 30,000 salmon made the trip to the 6,800-foot elevation Redfish Lake and several other lakes in the valley. The numbers started declining, the study said, with intensification of commercial fisheries in the lower Columbia River.

A dam on the Salmon River built in the early 1900s blocked salmon for several decades from reaching Redfish Lake, itself named after the red-colored sockeye that once arrived there in abundance. Additional dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers added to the fish’s challenges in succeeding years.

The run was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1991. That kicked off a hatchery program that scientists in the report said was able to retain about 95 percent of the genetic variability remaining in the population.

Besides genetic diversity, biologist also devised systems to raise the salmon in captivity.

“Although easily overlooked, a major program accomplishment was simply the development of fish culture protocols for rearing Sockeye Salmon full term to maturation,” the report said.

Captive sockeye have been reared at two locations. One is the Eagle Fish Hatchery in southwest Idaho run by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Fish have also been raised at the National Marine Fisheries Service facilities at the Manchester Research Station in Port Orchard, Washington.

While the program has relied on fish that never made the perilous trip to the ocean and back, it also produced an estimated 3.8 million eggs and fish for reintroduction to Sawtooth Valley lakes.

Besides releasing young fish to head for the ocean, called smolts, releases also included adults let go annually to spawn naturally in Redfish Lake.

The report concluded that Redfish Lake could eventually produce enough naturally raised young fish to head to the ocean that enough would survive and return as adults to exceed “self-sustainability.”

Ultimately the recovery plan is to have 1,000 or more fish spawning in Redfish Lake for multiple generations, and at least 500 spawning in one of four other lakes in the basin.

The report said that when enough adult salmon start returning to Redfish Lake, efforts could begin to bring sockeye salmon back to nearby Pettit and Alturas lakes.

The day after the Apple Cup


We're finally ready to post our usual combination of thoughts, links and cat videos. Read on.

It all seemed a little out of place


There is a time and place for everything. Sometimes, even mature adults get that mixed up. Read on.

Eagles fly higher than they ever have before


There's a fun game to play in the local sports bar with your buddies. You know the one I'm talking about, where you pick a subject and argue for hours. The most dominant Seattle Mariner pitcher? The Seahawk who meant the most to the franchise? Most entertaining Apple Cup? Well today we have a subject that, while interesting, wouldn't lead to a long discussion. Best non-conference win in Eastern Washington basketball history? Read on.

What time is the right time?


What time is the right time to start a college football game? Is it 11 in the morning? Or 1:30 in the afternoon? How about 7:30 at night? Read on.

Zags have already tasted some success


It's not easy putting a team together from what basically is scratch. Taking less than a handful of returning players and using them as the base, mixing in new faces in the starting lineup and off the bench. It's not the usual recipe for success. But Mark Few and the Zags seem to be cooking already. Read on.

Winning out isn’t all that easy


Want to know what the dumbest statement in all of sports is right now? “If they win out.” Using the term in relationship to college football is just plain silly. Nobody “wins out” anymore. Well, except maybe one team. Read on.

Another busy Friday night – and day


Friday was the night the lights were turned on in college basketball arenas all over America. It was also, as usual for the fall, a high school football night. Read on.

College basketball is back – thank goodness


The band is setting up, the fans are, slowly, beginning to wander in as we are about 45 minutes away from the college basketball season beginning. In Cheney. Who knew that would be the spot? Read on.

Felix’s numbers didn’t come up this time


Just when you think you have baseball's postseason award voters figured out, the target moves again. As that long-time Red Sox fan Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. The hobgoblins took down Felix Hernandez this time. Or was it the little minds? I'm not sure. Read on.

What a Saturday


It was a pretty eventful Saturday around here. Did you enjoy it? We certainly did. Read on.

Falk gets his chance for Cougars


A new era in Washington State football begins today in Corvallis. It may be a three-game “era” or it may last longer. Today's game won't completely determine that, but it will go a long way in the decision. Read on.

Yes, the college football season is nearing the end


I know this can be hard to swallow, but the college football season is winding down. Really. Read on.

Cross country races can stay with you for a while


Of all athletic endeavors, running seems to be the most basic. Just about everyone has done it at some point in their life, whether it was in competition or just to get to the fridge quick enough to get back in time to watch a game-winning field goal. Basic. But running, as is practiced in a cross country race, is anything but. There's more strategy than the average Joe imagines. And more drama. Read on.

A sad day in the Palouse


Why is it the saddest days always seem to be accompanied by rain? A gloomy day filled with gloomy news. That was Saturday. Read on.

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap


I'm not really sure what to write about today. The weather, maybe. We are supposed to have a 60-degree day, which is nice. Or should I do something related to WSU or Eastern? Hey, I know. How about some cross country or tennis? Anything but baseball. Read on.

All eyes this weekend will be on …


You know what happens this weekend? Summer ends, in a metaphysical way. See, this is the last weekend of baseball. The last gasp of summer's game. Of course, it won't be that big a deal. Saturday the nation's eyes will not be turned to Joe Dimaggio's successors, they will be tuned-in to Knute Rockne's descendants. And Sunday will be, as always, about the NFL. Read on.

The area’s college football scene has a bit of everything


Are we blessed around here or what? We have four college football teams, all playing a different level of the game, all with varying degrees of fan support, but none on the outskirts of the game. That isn't the way it is everywhere. Read on.

A road block may be ahead this morning


Sunday mornings are usually the pivot point for the football weekend. We look back, we look ahead. Not this morning. No rearview mirror today. We're headed full speed down the highway. Destination: St. Louis. Read on.

Fall football always finds a way to entertain


The yard is ready for winter. Well, the lawn is. Now if the darn leaves would just fall, I could settle in for a couple months of football watching before having to shovel snow. Read on.

The lies the men in blazers told us …


Is even the specter of the college football playoffs ruining the regular season? Ha. Read on.

Well, maybe we’re worried a little


I'm not worried. Not me. No sir. I'm sure the Seahawks will be OK. I think. Maybe. Read on.

Insomnia and football go together these days


Get to bed early or watch the end of another down-to-the-wire Pac-12 football game? Some choice. We're exhausted this morning. Read on.

Is another long season already in the cards?


One of my post-retirement, make-the-ends-meet jobs is providing commentary on the Washington State football postgame call-in show. Last night was no exception. But in a sense it was. Read on.

The Pac-12 changes course midseason


After WSU's loss Saturday night to California, it seemed changes would be made. They have. And in more places than Pullman. Read on.

It’s all about the action, isn’t it?


Oh, what a night. Early October back in 'ought 14. Or something like that. Being that my voice is nothing like Frank Valli's I won't try to sing, or even hum, the tune, but its sentiments are appropriate after last night's baseball action. Read on.