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Idaho taking over water pollution permitting from feds

Despite Idaho’s vaunted distaste for the federal government, it’s one of just four states where getting a permit for dumping pollutants into waterways requires dealing with the federal Environmental Protection Agency instead of the state. That’s changing under a law that quietly cleared the Idaho Legislature without a single opposing vote this year. But the change means Idaho will have to add an estimated 25 employees over the next eight years at the state Department of Environmental Quality – in a GOP-dominated state where lawmakers also spend lots of time about talking about shrinking government.

“I have to suck it up and say yes, it’s worth it,” said former Idaho Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Post Falls, who pushed persistently for the move during his three terms in the Senate; he’s also a former Post Falls mayor and city administrator. “I think it really does make more sense than letting the feds do it for us. It’s a better way to control our own destiny.” The only other states that currently have the EPA running their wastewater permitting programs are Massachusetts, New Mexico and New Hampshire; you can read my full Sunday story here at spokesman.com.

Geek out: Exactly how big is the city’s new CSO reduction tank?

Construction on a one million gallon tank to reduce overflows from a combined sanitary and stormwater sewer on the west side of Ray Street at 21st Avenue is set to begin in late September. The tank will capture and retain excess flows from combined sewers during a large storm from an area that includes Lincoln Heights and part of the East Central neighborhood.

In addition to reducing overflows to the river, this project also will help with localized basement flooding in homes near the tank. Construction is expected to continue through November 2014. To make room for the tank and for enhanced neighborhood safety, about 100 pine trees will be removed from the site, beginning Monday, September 23.

As part of the project, landscaping will be added that will return the location to a nature area. The project at 21st & Ray is part of a major initiative to improve the health of the Spokane River by reducing the amount of stormwater and wastewater entering the Spokane River.

The 21st & Ray tank will be the largest one the City has constructed to date to address overflows from combined sewers. City engineers say the tank will be as long as a football field, end zone to end zone. Check this comparison below:

tank vs bank bldg

Yes, that's the Bank Of America building downtown. 

Spokane businesses recognized for wastewater management

The City of Spokane is recognizing businesses that have excelled in the management of wastewater generated as part of their processes.

“We want to recognize these businesses for being good stewards of the environment and helping the City operate its wastewater treatment system efficiently,” said Rick Romero, the City’s Utilities Director. “We appreciate all the work that has been invested in these efforts.”

They achieved 100 percent compliance with requirements in their industrial wastewater discharge permits for 2012. Businesses are required to have such permits either because of they produce a large volume of wastewater or because they discharge pollutants that can disrupt wastewater treatment processes.

Idaho legislative panel to look into wastewater primacy for state

The Legislative Council, the leadership group that oversees legislative issues when the Legislature isn't in session, has voted unanimously this morning to have the Natural Resources Interim Committee look into whether Idaho should try to take over primacy on wastewater regulation from the EPA, and bring recommendations back to the Legislature. The Senate passed a resolution for such a study during this year's legislative session, but it didn't pass the House. "It's my understanding that the House … was not opposed to the consideration of the issue … but felt like this committee could be tasked to do it," said Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls. House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, said he'd like to add Rep. Frank Henderson, R-Post Falls, as an ad hoc member of that interim committee this year for that discussion. Sen. Jim Hammond, R-Coeur d'Alene, also was added.

There was no change in chairmanships for the four continuing interim committees that will meet this summer. Sen. Monty Pearce and Rep. Dell Raybould will continue to co-chair the natural resources committee; Sen. Curt McKenzie and Rep. George Eskridge will continue to co-chair the Energy, Environment and Technology Interim Committee; Sen. Dean Cameron and Rep. Gary Collins will continue to co-chair the Health Care Task Force; and Sen. Edgar Malepeai and Rep. Bob Nonini will continue to co-chair the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs.

Spokane City Council candidates debate sewer fees

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

City officials increased sewer charges by 17 percent last year and predict more increases the next few years in large part to pay for nearly $650 million for projects required by the state to improve sewage treatment and prevent untreated sewage from spilling into the river. Do you support sewage fee increases that could top 10 percent in each of the next couple of years? If not, what would be your preferred alternative?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Snow in the Rearview Mirror - Digging Out and Diving In

On Thursday, December 18, 2008, a Spokesman-Review headline read, “Region paralyzed by snow.” Paralyzed! Yes, say it aloud, paralyzed! What a dynamic word, so strong, drawing upon such powerful emotions. However, the use of such language was neither sensational nor inaccurate.

Digging Out The Neighbor II

Photo from of jimgspokane @ Flickr

The storm, “snowpocalypse as it was called”, left “Snowcan” buried amongst some 80 inches of snow and brought the region to a virtual standstill. Not everything was dormant however. Frustration, anger and a sense of hopelessness grew and festered in a time when such negative emotions could hardly be afforded. A financial travesty callously coinciding with the holiday season already had the region on edge, but when the snow started falling on Tuesday the 16th it’s as if it fell to the cackle of the Grinch. For many it was a disastrous way to end such a cataclysmic year – like a cruel aftershock following a devastating quake.

As of today, besides lingering frustration, all that remains is a hard icy base, sore backs, and stubborn snow berms unyielding to Mother Nature or the fate of city plows. Weather rarely leads the nightly news casts and shovels have been propped up in garages for weeks. Until the fog lifts and the white stuff starts falling again, “Winter Storm 2008, for all intents and purposes, is just, “a fascinating socio- observation of community, frustration, tolerance, optimism, depression, persistence and beauty…etc,” as one DTE reader put it. But who would we be if we didn’t consider the environmental impact of such a powerful storm.