Latest from The Spokesman-Review
GEOCACHING — The Pend Oreille County Geocaching Challenge will debut this month to show off some of the drive up and hike-in treasures in the northeast corner of Washington.
The challenge is being organized so experienced geocachers can jump into the game. With 25 geocaches to find, the challenge ought to take about two days to complete.
Newcomers also can get up to speed with primer events set for July 18:
9 a.m. — Event start
10 - 10:30 a.m. — Intro to Geocaching Class
10:30 a.m. — Challenge Caches Announced
11 - noon — Intro to Geocaching Class
Get your passports for the challenge via the link on the event page (soon to be posted) or at the event.
There will be 50 Geocache Coins made for the event available for each correctly completed passport; one coin per household. (More coins may be ordered later.)
Camping available at the event location for $10 a night.
Booths from the county and local organizations will be on site.
PADDLING — The Ins and Outs of the Pend Oreille River Water Trail will be detailed in a program for the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club, 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 24, at the Mountain Gear Corporate Office, 6021 E. Mansfield in Spokane.
Pend Oreille County Community Development Director Mike Lithgow will team with Ray Entz, the Wildlife and Terrestrial Resources director for the Kalispel Tribe, to present a travelogue on the newly established water trail.
The 70-mile route includes historical, cultural and geological features in addition to access points and recreational opportunities between Newport and Boundary Dam.
- See a gallery of photos from a SCKC paddling trip along the Pend Oreille River.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — "Rubber boa: Pend Oreille county's only native constrictor," says Bart George, wildlife biologist with the Kalispel Tribe.
UPDATE: State fish managers say the small fish hatchery to be built under this licensing agreement will be devoted to restoring native cutthroat and bull trout. Fish for stocking in northeast Washington lakes under the agreement will come from existing hatcheries under a contract between the utility and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
RIVERS — The license for Boundary Dam has met the requirements for approval with no appeals submitted, according to Seattle City Light, and that spells the beginning of projects to improve wildlife habitat, recreational facilities and fisheries along the Pend Oreille River.
The license was approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in March, but utility officials said today that the final hurdles had been cleared.
Under the new 42-year license, City Light will be required to mitigate the impacts of the dam to the surrounding environment in Pend Oreille County. These measures include long-term water quality monitoring programs, terrestrial habitat improvements, and wildlife monitoring programs for bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other species.
For example, Mill Pond Dam on Sullivan Creek will be removed under the agreement, clearing the way for fish passage — and kayakers — for the first time since 1909.
A native trout conservation hatchery is planned to raise cutthroats and bull trout that will be planted to help restore the native species in tributaries to the Boundary Reservoir. Required habitat restoration in these tributaries will benefit westslope cutthroat trout, bull trout and mountain whitefish.
Contracts will be signed with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to provide fish of various species from other hatcheries to stock in area lakes.
The utility is required to make avariety of recreational improvements in the Boundary project area including:
- New recreational trails on the east side of the reservoir.
- New non-motorized boat access with parking and facilities at the Metaline Falls Portage.
- Upgrading six dispersed recreation sites along the Boundary reservoir, including sanitation systems, picnic tables, fire rings and watercraft land and tie-up areas.
- Improvements to Metaline Park boat launch in the town of Metaline.
- New interpretation and education sites throughout the Boundary project area.
“This has been a long and carefully managed process, drawing input from many stakeholders and taking into account wildlife protection, recreational and cultural amenities, and the water quality of the Pend Oreille River,” said City Light General Manager Jorge Carrasco.
Approval of the 42-year license is a critical economic benefit to City Light’s customers and to Pend Oreille PUD customers whose primary source of electricity is low-cost Boundary power, he said
Read on for details about the conclusion of the license renewal process, according to a Seattle City Light media release:
FORESTS – A Stimson Lumber Co. application to spray herbicides on forest land in Pend Oreille County is drawing concern from wildlife enthusiasts.
Timber companies have been getting permits from the Washington Department of Natural Resources for aerial spraying for years to kill brush that competes in harvested areas with newly planted trees.
But birding groups and some hunters are concerned about the toll the herbicides are taking on native plants and the birds and wildlife that depnd on them, expecially moose.
The Stimson application is for prime moose habitat in the Skookum Lake-Half Moon Lake area as well as around North Baldy and Pelke Divide.
PREDATORS — Northeast Washington businesses and hunters once again took aim at coyotes this winter to spread a little wealth and help beleaguered white-tailed deer a little more breathing room.
Participating hunters checked in 294 coyotes during the winter Coyote Derby covering Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille Counties. The number is up from 227 taken during the derby last year.
The derby, organized by the Northeast Washington Wildlife Group, is sponsored by Clark's All Sports of Colville, Lake Roosevelt Walleye Club, Stevens and Spokane Counties Cattlemen's Association, Double Eagle Pawn, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and others, according to a story with more details by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Organized outings and access to experts are among the benefits of visiting festivals celebrating the arrival of migrating birds.
Based near Usk in the Kalispell Tribe's Wellness Center, the day includes a tour to see tundra swans gathering at Calispell Lake, plus lunch and short presentations by several speakers on topics ranging from swans to wolverine research in the area.
Preregister for the tour here. Cost: $10 adults, $5 youths under 13, includes lunch.
Info: (509) 447-5286.
OLYMPIA – The state's environmental community is fighting a plan to allow four lightly populated Eastern Washington counties to opt out of the Growth Management Act.
But in trying to generate opposition to the proposed change, the group Futurewise seriously overstated the impact that law has on Ferry County, one of four that would be allowed to drop the law under HB 1094 .
GMA is protecting nearly three-quarters of a million acres of farmland in Ferry County, keeping it from being “paved over,” the Seattle-based organization claimed in a recent website posting and a separate appeal for funds.
“In Washington, it’s far too easy to pave over farmland if it’s not designated as such,” the group said on its website. “That’s why we were fighting so hard to get the county to property designate and protect the best of the county’s 749,452 acres of land in farms and ranching.”
Wait a minute, said Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, sponsor of the bill. There aren't 750,000 acres of farmland – or any other kind of land – subject to GMA in Ferry County…
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OLYMPIA – One of this session’s David vs. Goliath matches involves Pend Oreille County in the role of the shepherd with the slingshot, and Seattle City Light, starring as the over-sized Philistine.
The utility may take issue with the characterization, but few other people would have objected Thursday during the Senate Government Operations and Elections Committee hearing, which passed along a bill designed to solve the long-standing dispute between the two over the Boundary Dam.
The city utility owns the dam, built in the 1950s, and uses much of the electricity to keep the lights on, the homes warm, the stores and coffee houses open in Seattle. It also sells the excess power, at a good rate, to other users across the West.
It doesn’t pay local taxes, but instead pays a negotiated impact fee to the county for the dam. When the latest 10-year contract on those fees expired in 2008, negotiations over the next 10-year agreement broke down. Pend Oreille County thought they should be considerably higher; Seattle City Light disagreed.
The Legislature held off jumping into the dispute last year, but it dragged on for 2009, and Pend Oreille County was sorely missing those payments. $1.3 million is not chump change in a place with high unemployment and underemployment. This year, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, dropped a bill that ordered a utility of a city with more than 500,000 people (read: Seattle) that has a dam in another county (as in Pend Oreille) to negotiate impact payments, keep making payments set up under an old contract while negotiating a new one, and pay the cost of arbitration if negotiations break down.
Considering that there are considerably more legislators who represent Seattle than Pend Oreille, and Democrats control both houses, one might have thought Republican Kretz’s bill had about as much chance as the Jamaican bobsled team getting the gold. But no…