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Tuesday, August 20, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Idaho

Giddings introduces bills on federal Superfund site and rights-of-way issues

State Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird
State Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird
By William L. Spence Lewiston Tribune, Idaho

BOISE – State Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, had two bills introduced this week, dealing with the Bunker Hill Superfund site and federal land rights-of-way.

The Bunker Hill resolution addresses part of the Silver Valley federal Superfund site, including the areas around Kellogg, Smelterville and Pinehurst.

The 1,500-square-mile site was created in 1983 as part of an effort to clean up heavy metals contamination left over from a century of mining and smelting activity.

Giddings told the House Resources and Conservation Committee a 21-square-mile area known as “the Box” has been the primary focus of the cleanup efforts.

In 2008, she said, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency certified that no additional remediation work “was needed or planned” within the residential or populated portion of the Box. Consequently, it’s appropriate to remove those areas from the Superfund listing.

“Some investors or developers may be reluctant to undertake economic activity at even a cleaned-up portion of real property, if it’s still part of a listed site,” Giddings said. “This (delisting) is really important to the people of that area, and has great economic impact.”

She also noted that under the Trump administration delisting of Superfund sites from the national priority list “is proceeding at the fastest pace in over a decade.”

“This is a time when the current administration is very supportive of valid delistings,” Giddings said. “I would urge your support, and that we as a Legislature let (the governor) know we are supportive of petitioning the EPA to remove (these areas) from the Superfund list.”

Giddings represents the 7th Legislative District, which includes all of Shoshone County, as well as Idaho and Clearwater counties and a small corner of Bonner County.

She also introduced legislation Wednesday that tries to give the state and counties greater legal standing in protecting and maintaining “RS2477” roads, which are long-standing public rights of way that cross national forests, wilderness areas and rangelands.

“A lot of these roads are being closed down by the (Bureau of Land Management) and Forest Service,” Giddings said. “That’s becoming problematic; there have been several lawsuits. We’d like to strengthen Idaho code in relation to these roads.”

Her bill declares that the state “does not recognize or consent to . the exchange, waiver or abandonment of these rights of way.”

Furthermore, it says the state and counties can maintain and widen the roads without liability.

Giddings introduced similar legislation last year, but it failed to advance, partly because of constitutional concerns. She indicated the Attorney General’s Office continues to have reservations about this latest version of the bill.

“I’ll humbly say we may not agree on some of the language,” she said. “As a Legislature, we’re at a point where we need to decide whether strengthening this law violates the Supremacy Clause. That’s a debate I’d like to have.”

Now that they’re introduced, both bills can come back for public hearings.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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)2019 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

Visit the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho) at www.lmtribune.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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