BONNERS FERRY, Idaho – Fewer than 500 white sturgeon are believed to be swimming the cool waters of the Kootenai River. But thousands of the young fish are spending their first months of life in a metal warehouse built just a stone's throw from the river. The eyelash-sized sturgeon are part of the Kootenai Tribe's aggressive program to ensure the endangered fish don't vanish from the planet. About eighteen months from now, when the fish are as long as a hammer handle and sport the beginnings of their tell-tale armor and sharklike tails, they'll be returned to the river. Someday, they might grow as long as a car and heavier than a horse; Kootenai River white sturgeon are the continent's largest freshwater fish species.
Changes in operations at the Post Falls dam could be delayed for a year, according to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality. Operated by Avista Utilities, the hydropower dam determines the level of Lake Coeur d'Alene and the flows in the Spokane River. The dam's federal permit is being renewed and will set the course for operations, including lake and river levels, for a generation to come.
BONNERS FERRY, Idaho – The silt has settled in front of the Harborview Marina in Bayview, but the post-mortem continues on the thousands of kokanee salmon fry that were crushed and smothered there two months ago because of illegal construction practices. On Tuesday, officials with the Northwest Power and Conservation Council met in Bonners Ferry to consider the issue, as well as other fish and wildlife restoration work being funded by the council, which includes governor-appointed members from four Northwest states.
Three years into his hobby, Jared Hundrup is starting to hit pay dirt. The Post Falls resident isn't about to quit his accounting job at Mountain Gear. But he has managed to pan enough gold on summer weekends to nearly recover the $500 or so he's poured into equipment.
On Valentine's Day, scientists gave Melanie a necklace with a satellite transmitter. The pregnant wolverine snarled, growled and hissed before ambling off into the icy wilds of Washington's northern Cascade Range. The collar sends back signals, giving biologists a rare glimpse into the world of one of the fiercest and least known creatures of the West. The study is one of several now under way and will likely be used in coming months to determine if wolverines should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Aubrey Moring has told some war stories to his two daughters, but the 84-year-old Coeur d'Alene retiree wasn't sure he wanted to tell them to a camera lens. "It's nothing beyond average," Moring said of his experiences in World War II, as the camera was being set up Friday afternoon in his small apartment.
PEONE, Wash. – Developers call the Wiltzius family about once a month. Their 680 acres is worth a tall pile of money, the developers say. People would pay big bucks to live so close to Spokane, yet have clear views of mountains and the treed rimrocks above the Peone Prairie. To these calls, Michael Wiltzius would reply, "We're not interested."
Developer Bob Holland has been fined $2,500 for destroying one of Lake Pend Oreille's last healthy kokanee salmon spawning beds, according to a statement issued Thursday by the Idaho Department of Lands. The destruction took place last month during an expansion project at a marina owned by Holland's company, Waterford Park Homes. Officials noticed the problems April 17 after steel pilings were illegally pounded directly through the spawning bed in front of Holland's marina in Bayview. The beds were loaded with tens of thousands of eggs and newly hatched fry. The Idaho Fish and Game Department, along with angler groups, have launched a massive, multimillion-dollar effort in recent years to restore the collapsed population, which is the foundation of the lake's $17 million sport fishery.
Descendants of the same horses that carried soldiers, prospectors, Plains Indians and Spanish conquistadors will be deployed next month by the federal government to help patrol the most rugged reaches of the northern border. Billed as operation "Noble Mustang," the U.S. Border Patrol believes this new team of wild horses will not only tighten security but also save taxpayer dollars.
The developer responsible for trashing a critical kokanee salmon spawning bed on Lake Pend Oreille last month will likely be required to repair the damages, as well as rework his marina expansion plans to better protect the struggling species. State and federal agencies have suspended work permits for developer Bob Holland's expansion of the Harborview Marina in Bayview following the incident on April 17 when steel dock pilings were pounded through one of the lake's last healthy kokanee spawning beds.
CAREYWOOD, Idaho – On Thursday, a group of elementary school students from Sagle and Priest River sat on the grass and got a lesson in high technology. "This here will do five times more work than two guys with a crosscut," said Elton Turcotte, a log scaler, as he hoisted a chain saw above his head. "It's a modern marvel."
The massive aquifer below Kootenai and Spokane counties has been able to slake the fast-growing region's thirst without being drained, according to the results of a new, $3.5 million federal study. But government officials and experts attending an aquifer summit this week in Spokane Valley expressed concerns the water is being squandered. "Just because we have this amazing resource doesn't mean you should waste it," Spokane Mayor Dennis Hession told several hundred people attending the conference Wednesday. "It will make this economy or it will break it."
Mbarak Hussein had heard about the notorious hills of the annual Lilac Bloomsday Run. But after twice finishing in the top five of the Boston Marathon – a race also known for punishing hills – the 42-year-old runner from Albuquerque, N.M., didn't think the short, little race in Spokane was anything to worry about. After finishing his first Bloomsday, though, his mind had changed.
A soldier from Spokane was killed Thursday in Iraq after his armored vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Ramadi, according to the U.S. Army Reserve. Cpl. Kelly Grothe, 21, was in a heavily armored vehicle taking part in a route-cleaning mission when the improvised explosive device went off, killing him and another soldier, Staff Sgt. Coby Schwab, of Henderson, Nev.
Some of the dancers at the Yap-Keehn-Um powwow Saturday in Coeur d'Alene could have stepped out of the 19th century. Their heads were topped with eagle feathers, and their buckskin clothes were adorned with elk teeth and the subdued colors from natural dyes. Many others, though, were explosively bright. Their regalia included splashes of neon, bright sequins and even pop culture references, like Tweety Bird. Six-year-old Joseph Bohlman, a member of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe now living in Post Falls, wore grass dancing regalia with a "Star Wars" theme.
Although a Coeur d'Alene man tried to erase pornographic pictures of children from his computer's hard drive, a computer-savvy Spokane police detective managed to retrieve the images and supply enough evidence to send the man to prison. Robert Witmor, 55, was arrested in August after his grown daughter discovered lewd pictures of children had been downloaded onto her computer, according to Deputy Prosecutor Jim Reierson. At the time, Witmor had been temporarily living in the basement of his daughter's house in Coeur d'Alene, where she also operated a child care business. He was using her computer.
A Kootenai County man accused of creating an illegal toxic waste dump above the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer now faces some of the highest fines ever assessed by Idaho regulators for violation of environmental protection laws. Wayne Galland, who runs a trucking and excavation business, faces $127,700 in fines, according to a violation notice this week from the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality.
Illegal construction in Lake Pend Oreille near Bayview, Idaho, effectively "nuked" one of the last healthy spawning beds for the lake's struggling kokanee salmon population, said Chip Corsi, regional director of the Idaho Fish and Game Department. Despite not having the necessary state permit, developer Bob Holland had steel beams pounded directly through the shallow spawning beds on April 17 as part of his large-scale marina expansion plan for the Bayview waterfront, Corsi said.
Just before sunset Friday, an old Marine pilot sat in his wheelchair on the tarmac of the Coeur d'Alene Airport staring up at the sky. Two fighter jets screamed past, dipping their wings in tribute to him. Garth Haddock, who flew fighter planes for the Marines in the skies above the vast Pacific six decades ago, sat motionless. The 86-year-old Coeur d'Alene resident teared up as the planes did their graceful dance.
RIGGINS, Idaho – It's hardly Caesar's Palace, but a borrowed boxing ring set up in a backwoods Idaho beer bar was where a 51-year-old desk worker from Spokane wanted one last chance to prove he still had some fight left. The fighter, Gordon Whitney, joined nearly 50 other boxers from the Inland Northwest at this weekend's Salmon River Scuffle. Some, like Whitney, had spent weeks training for their three minutes in the ring.
Antidepressants, painkillers, birth control hormones, antibiotics and caffeine might make life a bit easier for humans, but scientists doubt they're doing much good for fish, worms and other creatures that live in waters increasingly tainted by these substances. Little is known about the effects of drugs and household chemicals after they are flushed down the toilet – either in the form of unused pills or in traces of medicines and compounds that have been processed by the body. But growing concern by scientists prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and American Pharmacists Association to launch a campaign last month to help keep these chemicals out of waterways.
A warming planet means a longer forest growing season for the Inland Northwest, but the timber industry won't likely see much benefit. The gains in tree growth are being accompanied by increasing drought and much, much bigger wildfires, said Steven Running, a University of Montana scientist and one of the lead authors of a detailed assessment on climate change released Monday.
Tubbs Hill Natural Area is known for jaw-dropping vistas of steep cliffs, sparkling waves and views of the Coeur d'Alene skyline typically only enjoyed by those with a boat. Hill hikers this time of year, though, seem to be spending a lot of time staring at the ground.
Smothered trout spawning beds, muddied lake water and bays filled with silt are evidence of a dirty secret behind North Idaho's building boom: Erosion. A new class for developers and contractors has been launched to help curb erosion from construction sites.