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Meeting Minutes
March 30, 2015

Attendees

  • Kelly Aberasturi
  • John Bechtel
  • Dave Bieter
  • Tammy de Weerd
  • John Evans
  • Bob Henry
  • Brad Holton
  • Nathan Leigh
  • Garret Nancolas
  • Greg Nelson
  • Jim Reynolds
  • Steve Rule
  • Darin Taylor

Staff and Guests

  • Roger Batt – Batt & Assoc.
  • Steve Burgos – City of Boise
  • Annette deKnijf – Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge
  • Seth Grigg – Association of Idaho Cities Neal Oldemeyer – City of Boise
  • John Tensen – City of Boise
  • Bill Larsen – Treasure Valley Partnership

Steve opened the meeting and welcomed everyone to Canyon County. He indicated he had returned the previous night from Argentina. He had spent two weeks there where he had caught rainbow trout bigger than any salmon he had ever caught at a place called Jurassic Lake. His friend caught trout up to 20lbs. He saw the giant rodent, the Capybara and he shot over 2,500 shells in two days at doves. The doves are a pestilence there.

Open Discussion – Legislature

Seth said there has been a lot going on at the legislature even though they were supposed to adjourn the previous Friday. The speculation is they will continue to meet after Easter weekend. Interestingly enough, what is drawing things out is transportation funding and an issue related to pari-mutuel betting and horse racing.

The Senate really wants to appeal pari-mutuel betting and wants to stick around to be able to override this impending veto.

The Governor did sign Senate Bill 1144 into law the previous Thursday. This was legislation that preempts local governments from using eminent domain for greenbelts. An interesting dynamic with this bill is it was Senator Guthrie's fourth attempt in as many years to pass this bill. In the 2015 session there was a change in the Senate Local Government Committee which is going to impact us through the next year. The Senate Pro Tem Senator Hill removed himself from this committee and was a reliable legislator for local governments on this committee. His replacement on this committee was Jim Guthrie. He was the sponsor of this legislation and the 5-4 vote we had to hold this bill in committee last year, flipped the other way this year.

This session, there have been a number of proposals with a common theme of local preemption. Along with Senate Bill 1144 which he just mentioned, from the cities perspective there have been a number of bills to reign in annexation authority. One of them would have just applied to cities with less than 8,000. Another would have applied to all cities. The way these bills were structured, they would have been almost impossible to manage. The shift the legislature is attempting to make with these proposals…The way it is right now, there three categories of annexation. Category A is the easy one and is the way most jurisdictions would prefer to handle this issue. Category B is controversial and there are tiers within the category where if it is 99 parcels or less, the city can initiate the annexation without the consent of the landowners. If there are 100 or more parcels you need the consent of a majority of the land ownership to go along with the annexation.

The legislature wanted to change that. In addition to having the majority of the land ownership to approve the annexation, you would also need a majority of the land owners to approve the annexation. The problem this creates is how do you determine who is a land owner. For example, he and his wife own their property and under the new proposal is you would have to have a majority among all owners.

This was one of the worst of the annexation bills and was started in the House Local Government Committee by Representative Moyle. It was held in committee on an 11-1 vote. House Local Government has typically been a committee that has been very adversarial to local governments and has been difficult to work with. But they understood the complexity of this bill and voted to hold this legislation. But he expects we will deal with more annexation bills this next session.

We are getting it on two fronts. We are getting it on a rural front and on an urban front. In many of the smaller communities around the State, there have been challenges to annexation. As a result there has been interest from rural legislators to reigning in annexation authority to make it more difficult to annex in rural communities. At the same time, people have been looking at the bigger communities knowing there is going to be annexations, and are looking for ways to stop that. This is an issue we are going to have to focus on in the next year. To the extent it becomes more difficult for cities to annex territory as jurisdictions urbanize, if it is not incorporated into the city, then the responsibility to provide services in that area falls to the county. So if you have urban development within the county and there are water and sewer districts created, then it becomes the business of the county and the costs go up to the county. It is one area where we have a nexus between cities and counties working together to make sure as a State we have good annexation and land use policy.

Tammy added that the City of Meridian has had to take on a couple of county subs because systems failed and it becomes very costly.

Seth continued that another local preemption bill that came up was the Uber bill. Uber didn't like the ordinance the City of Boise was proposing to regulate their ride sharing business. So they went directly to the legislature in an attempt to preempt local government whether it be a city or county from regulating this next generation of ride sharing business. Unfortunately, the legislature felt it was in the best interest of the State to preempt local regulations on these ride sharing businesses. What Boise was proposing was reasonable with their requirements for background checks etc. As he talks to his colleagues around the country, they are dealing with these types of bills in other States.

Urban renewal has been a hot topic this year as has typically been the case. To this point, there is no legislation that is going forward. There have been a number of proposals that were introduced. What the legislature has decided to do is create an interim committee that will work over the summer to look at ways to make changes to Idaho's urban renewal laws.

Seth said there have been approximately a dozen transportation bills that have been introduced this session. Most of them have sat in the House Transportation committee because they were unfeasible in the House or the Senate. It looks like what they are settling on right now is there are three Bills that are on the House floor for consideration. HB 310 is a piece of legislation that would propose pulling funding from ISP out of the highway distribution account and placing it in the general fund. That $16 million which would be freed-up, would essentially go through a modified formula of a 60-40 split. 60% would go the State and 40% would go to cities/counties/highway districts.

HB 311 is a really complex piece of transportation funding. It proposes to do some pretty radical things. First it proposes increasing the gas tax by 7 cents. It is estimated this will raise about $65 million. It would go through the 60-40 split. This bill also proposes lowering the upper tier of the income tax to 6.7% from 7.4%. This comes with a cost to the general fund of a little over $20 million. In the future, this would have an impact on education

This bill also proposes eliminating the sales tax on groceries. The estimated fiscal impact is $172 million. This money goes through the revenue sharing formula and we get 11.5% of this. We estimate local governments across the board would lose $20 million.

What also would occur is the grocery tax credit would go away and this is around $140 million. So the legislature could use this money to buy down the impact on eliminating the sales tax on groceries. At the end of the day, in the first year, there would actually be a benefit to the State general fund of around $3.4 million. In the next year, there would be a loss to the State general fund estimated to be around $50-70 million and would have a huge impact on Education.

What they are attempting to do is establish a floor for local governments. In the future, this would restrict how much revenue would be generated from sales tax by pulling out the grocery tax. In ten years, there would be an estimated $30 million in foregone sales tax revenues from local governments.

John E. asked how the decision is made to end the session. Seth said that leadership makes this decision.

Water Rights - Flood Control Refill

Roger Batt introduced himself and in today's discussion, he will be representing all the irrigation districts and canal companies in the Treasure Valley. Roger said our irrigation projects began in 1911 with the start of the construction for Arrowrock Reservoir. We actually have water rights dating to the construction of this reservoir. Then Anderson Ranch Reservoir was completed in 1940. These two projects were actually paid for by the irrigation community. So these two projects were actually for the purpose of storing water for irrigation use.

Then we started having some flooding problems in the 1940's and we realized we needed to do a better job of flood control. So they started the construction of Lucky Peak reservoir in the 1950's and it was completed in 1965. So we have 1911, 1940 and 1965 water rights that are all with original priority dates issued by the bureau to our water right holders within the treasure valley system.

The maximum capacity of these three reservoirs is about 1 million acre feet total. There is a lot more water that is allowed to pass through the system. Because of the flooding, the irrigation community entered into an agreement with the Army Corps in 1953 for the purpose of releasing water for flood control. He showed a chart which details an example how the water flow and reservoir's fill through the span of a normal year. Flood control releases begin early in the spring and taper off in mid-April where they begin to refill the reservoir system with a target the first part of July for a maximum fill.

What has changed is the IDWR through their accounting system says that every drop of water that goes through the system needs to be accounted for. In this case, they are saying that flood control releases are going to be counted against our storage rights, even though we haven't used any of that water for any beneficial uses. They are also telling us that this refill period is when we don't have a water right any more. This is completely contrary to historical practices.

The reasons we have been told for these two policy changes are that they want to support junior water rights and new development coming into the valley. What they are trying to make our irrigation users do is, during this second fill period they are want us to subordinate these water rights to a 1994 or 2014 priority date. What that would mean is we would get rid the senior water rights and would be subordinated to the junior water right dates. So that junior water right holder would receive their water right first in line instead of the senior water right holder.

There are three different paths to go through on this particular issue. The first is to try to settle with the Department of Water Resources. They have tried to negotiate with them on several different occasions. The second option is to go to the legislature and have legislation that specifically says that flood control releases are not counted against storage rights, nor should they. There are members of the legislature that agreed with them and were willing to sponsor legislation to such an effect. However, the Speaker of the House and the two committee chairs has denied a hearing on this issue. The reason is, in the upper Snake this last year they reached an agreement to support junior water rights and the two river systems should be the same in this respect.

The third option available for them is to litigate this issue. Right now it is going to be addressed through a contested case hearing the Director has filed.

Roger said this doesn't just impact agriculture. It impacts cities and our residents. What it is going to do is force irrigation districts to shut off their water prior to the end of the irrigation season.

He indicated they have received a lot of letters of support from different jurisdictions in the valley and would like a letter from the Partnership as well. Dave said he wanted to have a chance to talk this over with staff and Steve asked Bill to put this as a discussion point for our next meeting.

Garret indicated he and his engineers have sat and discussed this issue with Roger. He feels there are a lot of potential problems for them, especially looking long term and they have written a letter in support of Roger's position.

Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge

Steve introduced Annette deKnijf, the Manager of the Refuge. She thanked the Partnership for the opportunity to speak. She offered that if any member wanted her to talk to their city/county, she would be happy to do so.

Annette started with the Refuge around mid-August of last year. She distributed copies of the programs that are available at the Refuge and requested that any member interested in any of the programs, please feel free to contact her.

She said you should have seen them in the news lately. There has been controversy and different opinions on their Comprehensive Conservation Plan. This is something they are required to write and they are also required to get public input on the Plan as well.

The initial scoping for the Comprehensive Conservation Plan started in 2011. They went and got public comment at that time and integrated that into their draft Plan. If you look at the Plan (it is accessible on line), Appendix A provides a listing of all the different groups they have done outreach to and gotten public comments from.

There were still some issues with the Plan moving forward. The biggest one was wake generating boats. They decided that the no-wake zones they had in place would suffice to protect wild life in these zones and they don't believe they need to prohibit any specific type of boat. Protecting wildlife for present and future generations is their mission and that is what they are trying to do with the Conservation Plan.

There are six uses of a wildlife refuge that they are mandated to try to provide. They are; hunting, fishing wildlife observation, photography and environmental education and interpretation. In addition to those, there are a lot of uses that occur at Lake Lowell. Those are pleasure boating, swimming, dog walking, hiking, horseback riding etc. They are trying to balance all those uses with still protecting wildlife and habitat.

The other thing they looked at was the 25 shotgun shell limit. They are going to continue to look at this as there are 32 different Wildlife Refuges that have a limit on the number of shotgun shells. There are also some State Wildlife Management areas that have shell limits. The issue for them is quality of hunt, for waterfowl, especially as the population visiting the Refuge increases.

Another issue was training for competitive events, such as cross country on the Refuge. In the past that has not been allowed. They are looking at doing a special use permit for these types of uses including 11 people or more. This will allow them to share their concerns with these events impacting the other uses of the Refuge.

John B. and Kelly both complained bitterly about the facts that Lake Lowell was built for irrigation water and it is our water to do with as we please. They both were adamant about the use of the term "allow" when it comes to managing a reservoir we built.

Dixie Drain Project

Steve introduced Neal Oldmeyer – Boise Public Works Director, John Tensen, City Engineer and Steve Burgos, Environmental Manager. Neal said they wanted to bring the Partnership up to speed on the Dixie Drain Project. He indicated that Paul Woods and he came to orient the Partnership to the project approximately four years ago. He added that in a couple days they will begin construction.

Neal thanked the Partnership members for participating in this process through the EPA, DEQ and other organizations. Neal reiterated that this Dixie Drain Project is a pilot project, so the data they are gathering and the lessons learned will be made available to Partnership members. He gave an open invitation to members to feel free to; come by the construction site both during and post construction and feel free to contact them if anyone is curious as how the project is progressing and want to see the data they are obtaining.

Steve said he wanted to give some context to the project and give an overview of the reasons the City pursued this project, instead of just upgrading their treatment plant. As everyone knows, all the cities were facing phosphorous removal requirements from EPA. For them, EPA was asking them to remove about 98% of the phosphorous at the treatment plant through the NPDES permit.

In 2009, they asked the Boise Mayor and Council to take a pretty big risk and allow them to buy property off the Dixie Drain in Canyon County. The idea was to reduce phosphorous at the treatment plant by 94%. The additional 4% was going to be extremely expensive and highly energy intensive. They knew it wasn't going to provide us with a lot of benefit down near Parma where the water quality problems are on the Boise River.

If you look at the River, there is really a tale of two rivers. From Boise down through Meridian, the Boise River is not impaired with phosphorous. But the lower end is greatly impaired with phosphorous. This impairment is largely tied to return flows from agricultural operations.

Steve said their treatment plant is at the east end of the valley. By the time you get to Middleton for example, about 2/3 of the water they put into the system will have been diverted back out onto farmer's fields and the phosphorous is being added back in. Their thoughts were, if they could go to the Dixie Drain and remove the last 4% there, that would give them a better environmental return on investment and better bang for their buck and see improvement at Parma.

Over a four year period, they negotiated with the EPA and it took them a while to get comfortable with the project. Probably the most contentious issue they had with the EPA was the concern about localized impact. Over time through modeling they were able to convince the EPA that this plan wasn't going to lead to localized impact and there would be a better outcome at Parma. They are seeing through modeling about 15-20% improvement at Parma on total phosphorous.

Steve turned it over to John Tensen. John said the 9 acre site is about 1.5 miles east of Hwy. 95. It is located about ¼ mile from the confluence of the Dixie Drain and the Boise River and about nine miles upstream from the Snake.

John said as far as site improvements, you will see a channel into a sedimentation basin and a fill in basin. They will have an area on the opposite side of the drain where they will store the phosphorous so it can dry out and they can haul it off.

In the next week, John said they will begin construction. They don't expect to be done this year. The last thing they need to do is put in the liner. They need warm weather to do this, so next spring about this time; they will be putting in the liner and start diverting water in April and hopefully start treatment in June.

John said the ground water is very shallow, around 4-5 feet deep. They have an extensive dewatering effort and will be pumping the water down to enable the excavation.

Garret asked if anything was going to be done with temperature as that is the next thing on the horizon. John said in their permit, they are required to monitor for any temperature problems they might create for the first five years.

John said, one of the big benefits of the project is they are going to be removing sediment which should help clear up the water down to Parma.

John B. asked how they are going to clean out the sediment in the pond if they have a liner in the pond. John said they will have a floating dredge which is like a big vacuum cleaner.

Director's Report

Back to the earlier issue with regards to the letter to legislators on the Water Rights - Flood Control Refill, Dave said he has checked with his guys about the letter and if the Partnership is fine with the letter, he would also be in favor.

Brad moved that we draft a letter from the TVP regarding this issue. Bill said a draft letter is in the packet and asked members to review it and make changes and he will send it out.

Bill said there are a lot of iterations with regard to the SAUSA Project during this legislative session. He has a commitment from Director Kempf with regard to attending our April 27th meeting along with a couple legislators to begin the process of identifying a permanent funding solution for the State-wide SAUSA Program.

There was a discussion with regard to a conflict for the April 27th date and the members directed Bill to see about changing the meeting to the 20th.

Brad moved and Darin seconded to approve the minutes and financial statement.

Steve said that former Middleton Mayor Frank McKeever is having some health issues and asked member to contact him and send well wishes if they would like.