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Meeting Minutes
November 28, 2011

Attendees

  • John Bechtel
  • Tom Dale
  • David Ferdinand
  • Brad Holton
  • Garret Nancolas
  • Vicki Thurber

Absent

  • Kelly Aberasturi
  • Dave Bieter
  • Vern Bisterfeldt
  • Tammy de Weerd
  • Scott Dowdy
  • John Evans
  • Keith Green
  • Nate Mitchell
  • Jim Reynolds
  • Craig Telford

Staff and Guests

  • Johanna Bell, CH2M HILL, Lower Boise Watershed Advisory Council Chair
  • Lance Holloway, Idaho DEQ
  • Lee Van De Bogart, City of Caldwell, Lower Boise Watershed Advisory Council member
  • Moya Shatz, Director – Idaho Grape & Wine Commission
  • Pete Wagner, Idaho DEQ
  • Bill Larsen

Garret Nancolas opened the meeting and welcomed everyone to Caldwell. Garret said if you haven’t been in down-town Caldwell after dark, you are missing it. This year they are hosting 400,000 LED lights along the Indian Creek walkway in downtown Caldwell. What is fun about the display is all the figurines you see along the creek were made by their street department out of scrap iron that they scrounged. They have everything from soldiers guarding the bridge to penguins on surf boards. He stated further that it is amazing what these guys have done on their own time and effort.

Garret stated that if Tammy were here, he would congratulate her as well. For the second time, the City of Caldwell has been awarded one of the top 100 cities for youth and families. This is an award giving out by the America’s Promise Alliance. For the second time there were two cities from Idaho selected, as the City of Meridian was also selected this year.

In Caldwell, the crime rate has plummeted this last eight years. This hasn’t been achieved by ourselves There has been help from the City of Nampa, the Canyon County Narcotics Unit, the task force and other organizations. All of us have worked hard together to drive down crime in Canyon County. The Treasure Valley Partnership and the SAUSA Program has made a huge difference in the prosecution of crimes.

All of us, working together, have helped Caldwell and Meridian receive this recognition and we deserve a hand for our hard work. He is truly thankful for the relationship he has with the members.

He reported that a few weeks ago his wife had a little stroke, but is doing better. And according to the doctor’s the prognosis is good for a full recovery.

Grape and Wine Industry

Garret welcomed Moya Shatz, the Director of the Idaho Grape and Wine Commission. .Moya stated that the wineries had a huge thanksgiving weekend and most of them had barrel tasting events. They just hosted an even called Wine America. 45 people throughout the industry came to Idaho.

Currently we have 46 wineries in the State. Despite the demographic down turn, the wine industry is not really hurting. Wineries in Idaho are doing quite well because their price points are what people can afford. People are not reaching for that $100 Cab. They are reaching for the $20-25 dollar Idaho Wine. The price points for Idaho wines range from $6.99 Ste. Chappell to a Koenig vintage that’s around $50.

In 2008, they had an economic impact study done by BSU. It found there is a $73 million impact on the economy from the Idaho Wine Industry. Those are pretty powerful numbers. The Wine industry in Idaho was started in the 1960’s in northern, Idaho. We are continually seeing growth in the industry. Often they hear of a new vineyard or winery that is getting started.

Right now there are 46 wineries and 50-60 vineyards. What is different about Idaho is a lot of people are a grower and a vineyard. It is not like that in other places where you are either a grower or a winery.

Moya stated that she sees Caldwell being the next Walla Walla. It is a great destination with places to stay and a burgeoning wine industry. There are a lot of things to do here and believes it will continue to become a destination for folks that like to tour wineries.

People often ask what kind of grapes grow well here. And to answer that question, the have teamed up with some map makers and devised a map that shows the kinds of grapes that grow best given the elevation, climate, etc. of the growing regions in Idaho.

Brad asked how Idaho compares to other States on their taxation of the wine industry. They have the liquor tax and they also charge an industry assessment. Idaho’s industry assessments are 4 cents a gallon and $7 a ton. Washington is at 8 cents a gallon and $12 a ton. Oregon is at 2 cents a gallon and $26 a ton. And what is different in these states is the industry assessment is mandated and it is not in Idaho. The industry assessment is a fee the industry pays to help market and promote the industry.

Trading and Pollution Credit Exchange: TMDL’s and WAG’s

Lance Holloway briefly described the Watershed Advisory Groups and the overall Basin Advisory Group of the Treasure Valley. Brad asked what the representation of local municipalities is sitting on the WAGS and BAG. He continued that the municipalities with the exception of one or two are not at the table. Municipalities have the greatest burden to bear because they are a recognizable target.

Johanna said she has prepared a quick overview of the Lower Boise Watershed Council participation. We have quite a bit of participation from Nampa and Boise and the smaller municipalities are not represented as well as the larger ones. The amount of outreach we have done has been primarily their distribution lists which consist of engineers and engineering consultants that do serve the smaller communities.

The other avenue we have for outreach is on the State’s website. You can go on to the website for the Lower Boise Watershed Council and sign up to get updates that happen to this page. They also have technical sessions at the annual water quality workshop.

Johanna said they are open to suggestions to help them be more effective on their outreach.

Garret asked what the discussion is with regard to point-source versus non point-source of affluent and at what point in time will the costs of meeting these standards exceed any sensible benefit that is going to be derived.

Pete stated that the Clean Water Act is the federal law and it exempts out those non point sources. The way the EPA has looked at is to allow the discussion and process to move forward to where you can do trading between point-sources and non point-sources under certain circumstances.

Garret stated that even with trading, the costs are going to fall on the point-sources and not the non point-sources. Pete stated that NPDES Permitting comes out of EPA, the DEQ does the 401 Certifications on those permits. There was a push to get the NPDES Permitting to come to the DEQ through Primacy. There was some opposition from some groups that would have to pay in the future where they don’t right now.

Tom added when you look at the valley, at least 30% of the NPDES Permits are Cities. The others are industrial type entities. These others are the ones that don’t have to pay and are not interested in paying. They are being asked to cover 2/3 of the cost of a $2 million NPDES Permitting program. Garret said, the point being, even if you triple the cost to the Cities, it is cheaper by far to pay a higher NPDES Permit fee and work with someone who is reasonable than it is to meet the requirements of the EPA.

Pete said, the Cities have to weigh that. The DEQ would be obligated to issue permits that complied with water quality requirements. We still have to go down the TMDL path and still have to write TMDL’s for impaired waters. He said that he believes they would be more flexible than the EPA, but they still can’t break a law or water quality rules.

Tom stated that the goal was to remove the phosphorous levels at the mouth of the Boise River. The City of Nampa would be asking for considerations for topographical and other factors. For example, during the irrigation season, 80% of the water we discharge goes into a canal. The State of Idaho is unique in the nation as far as canals and drains. EPA is not quite versed in the differences.

Brad felt the only thing that is going to impact the Cities immediately is the trading idea. He feels it could be here sooner than Primacy. Garret asked if the EPA accepts trading.

Pete answered that the EPA has done other kinds of trading in other states. We haven’t had an official phosphorous kind of trade within the lower Boise. There was a City of Boise internal trade. That was from the City to the City.

Johanna stated that the Permits create the framework for a trade. The City of Twin Falls is one very good example. In their Permit requirements, they are required to seek sediment reductions through contracts with landowners in order to meet their discharge requirements relating to sediment. There is concentration goals that are treatment process related in terms of facility upgrades. Then there is total load allocations that you can’t discharge x number of pounds. They are both at play within these discharge permits.

David asked that when the City of Nampa discharges into the irrigation canal, why you couldn’t designate that as trade.

Pete stated that for the last year and a half, there have been high level meetings with the City of Boise, the EPA and them. In all of those meetings, the EPA has been very supportive of trading.

Tom said they have this little study group going. They have an online virtual group of 500 people and have citizens involved at trying to look at all the options. One of the strongest options they are looking at is infiltration. This gets them out of the EPA all together by not discharging into surface waters. It takes the right type of ground and you have to clean the water to a Class A standard in order to do that. It is still cheaper in the long-run.

They have been looking at all sorts of options and the capital investment required for each option is quite similar. They are looking at the trading option, treatment on site and this option. But the ongoing costs of infiltration are much less. Plus, you have more control or your destiny, because EPA could come out a few years from now and change the requirements which would cost more.

Pete said that he and Lance went to Twin Falls a couple weeks ago. They have been doing these types of projects for 30 plus years. The North Side and Twin Falls Canal Companies have done amazing things to become part of the solution. They have what his dream is for our region, where the DEQ, Canal Companies, Cities and others work together to solve the problem.

They went and looked at four or five projects. Sedimentation basins were a big thing because they are dropping out phosphorous. The canal companies made this sedimentation basin happen on their own dime. They believe it is the right thing to do because if they don’t do it now, sometime in the future they will probably be regulated and if they do it now and clean up, maybe they won’t be regulated.

One of the projects was between the Fish and Game and the Canal Company. The Canal Company diverts water to a pond area with three sedimentation basins. The third pond is stocked with fish and is a local fishing destination. The sediment basin is almost full now as it has been four or five years. They are going to pull that sediment out and continue to use it as it is. The City and one of the canal companies are looking at a project to purchase more property adjacent to a wet-land, just to expand it. Their goal is to have a 0 discharge back into the river.

One of the advantages they have is the area is filled with big farms where they do sprinkling. Thus they have virtually no run-off from the fields. Where-as the Treasure Valley has smaller farms with less sprinkler systems.

Brad stated that the only canal company he knows that is doing anything is Riverside. They are a small company and they discharge into both the Boise and the Snake and are working with the local jurisdictions. The other canal companies have a real adversarial attitude toward municipalities. It would be nice if we could turn this around so these entities and the cities could work together to try to come up with solutions. Maybe the DEQ could help with that.

Pete said that the DEQ has not done a good job of reaching out the irrigation companies in this valley. And they are trying to improve on this.

Garret wanted to revisit the conversation with the irrigation company in Twin Falls. If we are going to be able to come up with some reasonable solutions, we are going to have to be able to work with them. He would much rather do some sort of sediment removal project or some sort of natural filtration process than he would having to deal with the very strict requirements on treatment plants, when it comes to phosphorous.

Johanna asked if Lance got a sense of how much the ground water was reentering the system. In our geology, we have a lot of ground water/surface water interaction within the drains in this basin. This could create a problem with the idea of an infiltration solution. Garret asked what depth is the majority of the intermingling of ground and surface water. Johanna said it depends on where you are located in the Basin. As you go farther west, most of the drains are dominated by ground water flow.

The difference between the dissolved phosphorous and the phosphorous that’s attached to the particulates is also unique. When we look farther west in the basin the dissolved fraction of the phosphorous is very high in the return flows from these drains. This needs to be addressed if we are going to meet our goals for water quality.

Garret asked what the difference between the two. Johanna, said when you are trying to remove something that is already dissolved, that is where you look for solutions that create larger particles. This is exactly what is proposed for the Dixie Drain.

Some of the questions that have been raised include looking at phosphorous as a finite resource that is necessary for growers and crops. Is there a way to recycle the phosphorous for use on the crops? This would be a more sustainable approach to phosphorous management if we found a way in the future to recycle the use of the phosphorous.

Lance stated in regards to the Twin Falls drainage. Generally, they have about 10 feet of soil on bedrock. They found that they needed to build a lot of drains or tunnels for their fields. As a result there is a lot of groundwater re-flow back to canals and rivers. They don’t have the same kind of geology that we have. They are able to isolate a lot of their canals and drainages into wetland basins. Another challenge we have, is their Ag industry is composed of larger farms where as here we have smaller ones. Because of this it is not cost effective to build the sprinkler systems for the fields in this valley.

Johanna said permits set the legal framework, but TMDL’s set that frame work as well. Essentially, the sooner we get these TMDL’s in place, the better we are in terms of promoting trading to occur. It will make it easier for the municipalities and the dischargers to look into doing these trading programs.

She calls it the back-end programs. There are some real good examples in other states of how organizations could come in for these back-end programs. They would do the brokering for the smaller municipalities in terms of identifying who willing partners would be. Who is doing the monitoring and verification for the credits? There are several organizations doing this around the country.

It is important to get these TMDL’s in place so permits can be consistent with them. This will allow these back-end programs to roll in and be supported by the regulatory framework. Right now, the TMDL’s are moving forward in the WAG’s in Southwestern Idaho. Several are in draft phase. It just takes time.

Pete said he had asked the Lower Boise Wag for its Lower Boise Phosphorous TMDL. By a majority vote, the recommended the DEQ go ahead and draft a TMDL for the Lower Boise River Phosphorous. They are going to start working on this after the first of the year. It will be contentious.

Johanna said that when you look at the TMDL’s and allocations, you need to put together a framework for the allocations that allows for flexibility. Storm water is an example where the discharges from storm water are small and short term. However, in terms of relative loading, its above what you want to see in the receiving water body. So they do have an impact. This is something that municipalities need to be aware of. The cost of storm water volume controls can mean a lot to your budgets and in particular your street budgets.

Lance said in closing that you can get updates on what is happening through their DEQ website. If you go to the WAG Page, you can scroll to the bottom and sign up to be notified of any changes to the WAG website.

Garret thanked Johanna for her leadership on the Lower Boise Wag. He added that they have had good relations with DEQ over the years on numerous issues and he thanked Pete and Lance for their good work.

Other Business

Tom said that he had a discussion in his staff meeting today around the requirements to advertise in the paper on all kinds of things. They spend thousands and thousands of dollars printing these notices in the paper. He added there is hard data that shows people don’t read the paper for information like this. He was wondering if it might be time to go to the legislature and get this law changed or modified to include online posting. If you could do online posting for these requirements you could save millions of dollars around the state.

Executive Directors Report

Bill mentioned that he had shared a letter he had gotten from Sharon Ullman, Ada County Commission with Tom. Her letter voiced a concern about Partnership retreats being held out of town. Bill wanted to bring this up as a topic of discussion.

Tom said he had felt the letter Bill responded with was accurate. He continued that if you want to have a concentrated time of discussion, there is no question that it is better to do that away from home. Garret added, if you’re here, every one of us get phone calls and get called out of the meeting and it interrupts the train of thought. There is a whole different dynamic that occurs if you are away and the costs are minimal.

David stated that when you take a speaker into that situation, you get real quality time. The quality time we had with the EPA, DEQ, State finance and the other folks we had this last summer was unparalleled. He added that the concentrated time we had with the speakers outside of the presentation was also something that wouldn’t necessarily happen if you were in town.

Brad stated that the reality of local elected officials is that you are on. When you get away for a meeting like the Retreat; you’re not on and you don’t get interrupted, which leads to concentrated time that is well worth it.

Tom stated that he feels the answer is that the members of the Treasure Valley Partnership feel it is worth the effort. When you go out of town you are much more focused and the time is very valuable.

Bill stated that we have a couple of new members due to the elections. He will contact them and secure a time to meet once they have taken office. Tom suggested we wait till the January meeting to invite them, just so we can avoid any kind of possible points of sensitivity.

Bill stated that it is official and the Partnership as obtained two new members. The City Marsing has joined and paid their membership dues for the next year. Also, the City of Eagle has rejoined the Partnership.

Bill indicated the Partnership has been invited to speak to the Idaho Criminal Justice Commission on December 16th. Their meeting agenda is in flux and we do not have a specific time yet for our presentation. As soon as we are locked into a time, he will solicit members to speak with the Commission.

Meeting adjourned.