- Tom Dale
- John Evans
- Tammy de Weerd
- Keith Green
- Brad Holton
- Darrin Taylor
- Rick Yzaguirre
Staff and Guests
- Barry Burnell – Water Quality Division Administrator, Idaho DEQ
- Dee Carlson – Water Quality Specialist – Idaho NRCS
- Amy Dowd – Executive Director – Idaho Health Insurance Exchange
- James Eller –District Conservationist – Caldwell Office, NRCS
- Bob Ford – Senator Crapo’s Office
- Seth Grigg – Policy Analyst, Idaho Association of Counties
- Ken Harward – Executive Director, Association of Idaho Cities
- Elting Hasbrouck – Valley County Commissioner
- Lance Holloway – Surface Water Manager, Idaho DEQ Boise Regional Office
- Michael McIntyre – Program Manager, Water Quality Division, DEQ
- David Primozich – Senior Ecosystem Director, The Freshwater Trust
- Bryan Ricker – Senator Crapo’s Office
- Mike Roach – Senator Risch’s Office
- Pete Wagner – Regional Administrator, Idaho DEQ Boise Regional Office
- Cynthia York – Program Administrator – Medically Indigent Services, Idaho Dept. Health and Welfare
Tammy asked how much other members paid for an animal shelter contract and stated her contract is around $400,000. Darin responded that their animal shelter contract is included with their law enforcement contract with the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and believed it was around $260,000.
Tammy continued that they have had their own shelter for years, but it has been on temporary ground at the wastewater treatment plant. They are expanding out there, so the shelter had to move. They are removing all of their animal control and sheltering activities. Now it is totally contracted with the Idaho Humane Society.
Tom said he knows they contribute to the animal shelter, but he did not know the amount. It is way less however than what Canyon County wanted when they decided to go into animal control themselves. Darin indicated he remembered it was near $500,000 and Tom concurred. Tom said they decided to buy a couple trucks and hired a couple of people and they are doing a good job.
Elting asked if Nampa is euthanizing dogs. Tom said when CCSO was running animal control they euthanized a lot. The current operator tries not to euthanize anything. Tammy added that Tom’s operator and IHS work with rescue groups and look at things like reducing the adoption fees to encourage adoption.
Elting indicated there are some new laws kicking in on people selling dogs on Craigslist. In Valley County, they have a group called Paws which is south of Cascade and they take in all the strays. They had a train wreck this last spring when it came to their budget. The Executive Director came in and reported the figures. It turned out the cost was over $600 per animal and the Commission said that is too much. The County cut their budget back and it costs them around $18,000 per year. Paws have an annual budget of over $300,000 but they operate mainly on private donations.
Elting continued that in the old days when he was growing up, the deputies took care of the problem immediately on-site and it was not a problem. The way the law reads now is if a dog comes on your property and you shoot and kill it, which is ok. But if it survives and makes it back to the owner, you have to pay all the Vet bills. As a rancher, Elting said they deal with this all the time and it is a huge problem.
Tom said their ranch is near Spokane and for a while they had a tremendous problem with wild dog packs. He can remember shooting several of them at a time. He added they are way worse than coyotes in that they have no fear of people and will come right in your yard and take what they want. Elting said their ranchers pack guns and don’t put up with the stray dogs.
John said they have had to taser several dogs. For example when a pit bull has a lady pinned up against her house, a bullet could ricochet and go through some houses and kill someone down the block.
Tom said their Canyon County shelter has struggled a little financially. They had a big push a couple weeks ago and held a big fundraiser. He added that they are full and they have no excess space.
Elting said he thinks cats are worse. Tom agreed. John added they classify them as feral animals in Garden City, so you can trap them. He added that there are places you can take them. For instance physiology classes take them for dissection.
Darin said when he became Mayor, they changed the code. The said that pets had to have a collar and a tag with the owner’s name and phone number on it. If the animal is without a tag, then it is disposable. If the number doesn’t work, then the animal is disposed.
Tammy said they charge extra if your animal is not registered and you get a $75 ticket. Darin asked if Meridian had someone to track the registration of the animals. She stated they have a license program. But she wondered what percentages of dogs are registered? Tom said they figure around 15%. Brad said he bets they are less than that. In Greenleaf, they have considered a provision of the animal control ordinance to declare a canine without a tag, a feral animal. They haven’t been brave enough to do it yet, but it would be a fine experiment because you are more at liberty to do what you want with an animal at large.
Tom said that if they pick up an animal and take it to the shelter that is not marked with a license or a tag, and you go to pick it up, there is pretty good fine that goes along with that. In addition the person is required to license it. Also, if the animal is not neutered or spade, it is a lot of money to get that animal out of the shelter or you can have them neuter the animal. Their charge to do this procedure is pretty reasonable however.
Brad added they have a 72 hour hold before the animal is disposed. If the animal is not neutered or spade, it costs around $180 to get it out of jail. It is actually cheaper to have it neutered or spade and then pick it up.
Tammy said they think this new contract with the Idaho Humane Society (IHS) is going to be a lot better for their community because they didn’t take cats. Their residents would have to drag them out to IHS and are charged them to drop them off. She added they are building a new facility that will be closer for their residents.
Electability Qualifications of a Mayor
Brad asked about the possibility of talking to the State legislature about the electability qualifications of a Mayor. State code requires all P&Z members to be residents of the county for two years prior to being eligible. But yet a Mayor can break a tie vote on a land use issue and have only been a resident of the City for 30 days. Tammy added that this also applies to city council as well. Brad continued that it is illogical to have this requirement for a P&Z member and not for the others. Darin said the risk is that they would lower the requirements for P&Z, but he is in favor of what Brad is saying.
Tammy said that Mike Moyle told her they are talking about mayor, city council and local government officials needing to be partisan. She felt this is such a mistake and local government does not need to be partisan and we don’t deal with partisan issues. She thinks it is ridiculous that local government at the county level is partisan. Everyone agreed.
Tom said he has talked to legislators about this. What difference does it make if the sheriff or county coroner is partisan. On offices like that, he believes they should be hired, not elected. That way you would be getting the most qualified person. They certainly have nothing to do with partisan politics.
Elting said, as County Commissioner, he wished that the Treasurer, Clerk, Assessor and other functions were employees. This is where they have most of their problems. For example, they recently had a problem with the County Prosecutor who just up and quit. They had to go out and hire outside attorney’s to handle their court related matters. It was $480,000 out of their budget which is a big chunk to Valley County.
Tom wondered if this would take a State Constitutional change. Brad indicated that he believed it would just take a legislative change. Brad added that partisanism at that level is just a waste. He believes there would be more qualified people running for offices if they did not have to go through the political party stuff. He has had numerous people tell him, who were singularly qualified for a position like clerk, that they said they were not going to run because of the party election mechanism.
Going back to the first question, Brad asked what the group’s response would be if he took the idea of tightening up the residency requirements for mayor, to a couple of legislators. There seemed to be consensus from those in attendance that they would be in support of this effort.
Tom mentioned he attended a metro chamber event the day before. Jeff Sayer spoke and mentioned a bunch of items he is trying to get the legislature to move on. When it comes to incentives for businesses, right now in the incentives section on what we can allow, every state we are competing with, is able to exempt up to 30% of payroll taxes, income tax and corporate tax. In Idaho we have zero. This gives all the states we are competing against to attract businesses an incredible advantage over Idaho.
As example, say an organization is going to come in and bring 100 jobs. They are going to spend money on infrastructure, etc. It keeps the state off the hook from putting money up front. It is all done through rebates based on performance. So if a company comes in, builds and creates jobs, they will pay their taxes, but receive a percentage of it back.
In Nampa, their urban renewal district incentive is, you come in and you build, we will pay you back up to 5 years, X amount of dollars for the cost of infrastructure the business undergoes. They have also looked at utilizing a Synthetic TIP (Tax Increment Finance). Where somebody comes in and says they are going to build a building, they can do a private contract with that business that the City will reimburse you after you build the building and start paying your taxes. They will reimburse for expenses on upgrading roads and other infrastructure improvements. This Synthetic TIP is used throughout the country.
Tammy and Darin commented they had not heard of this before.
Tom said his attorneys have researched it and it is a tool that is available.
Tom indicated that Canyon County has the ability to forgive taxes. They have been pretty good about utilizing this to enhance business. For example, Sorrento which just did a $40 million upgrade of their cheese factory received a $75 million reduction for five years off of their property taxes.
Brad said he is concerned that the water quality trading thing is going to be kind of like herding cats. In Greenleaf, he feels they really got screwed. They had to come in at .07 out of the gate with no negotiation or anything. If other jurisdictions had to go to .07 today, like they had to, you would be looking at doubling your sewer rates.
What he is concerned about as we look toward trading, that municipalities have a common voice. We are the identified target of all regulations and we need to have a unified voice and know what is practical and what is not practical. Right now, we are all separate on how we address the trading issue.
Tammy indicated it all hinges on the TMDL. Tom indicated they are working on it as he had a conversation with Pete a few days earlier and believes it is coming soon. Bill stated that Lance is going to be here later in the day to give us an update on the progress toward completion of the TMDL.
Brad continued that he is afraid it is going to be like the air shed where the big contributor to VOC’s is sage brush and you cannot do anything about that. In water quality, it is Ag that is a major contributor but they are left out of requirements. It is not going to be reality going forward. Somehow the cities have to be united and be able to offer an olive branch to the Ag industry and get out of the mentality that it is us and them.
Tammy said she knows that EPA has stricter rules on the temperature issue that DEQ has been contesting. EPA and DEQ are not in line. DEQ has been pushing the trading program as an answer to the TMDL. She felt we need to continue to express our support to DEQ and our concerns to EPA and see where we are at. Right now, in Meridian, they are just starting their permit program. Tom indicated they are supposed to have a draft permit in a couple months.
Tammy said they are still operating under their 1999 permit. And they just had an exceedence during the big rain the week before. It was just a mess. She did not know how they could expect them to operate under a 1999 flow when the population of Meridian was only 34,000 then.
Tom asked how treat and trade, effects Greenleaf. Brad said they have the most rigid discharge permit. In four years when they are up for renewal of their permit, they will be so inadequate when it comes to temperature. In addition, if the trading doesn’t go through, they will go to 12 months out of the year at .07. Right now you have the summer where you have to be at .07. In the winter they let you go up higher in the discharge. If we have to go to .07 throughout the year, they would have to put in mechanical equipment that is as expensive as the plant.
Tom said the 12 month issue is the whole wild card with the Boise – Dixie Drain project. EPA could come in at any point and say they are going to require all 12 months. If we are required to go 12 months the treat and trade idea goes out the window.
Tammy said so is Meridian. They are doing their Class A reclaimed water program. If they restrict it only to irrigation pipes, they are under the gun.
Tom said in Nampa, for the long term they are planning on infiltration. Their ultimate plan would be to treat the Class A water but at the same time create an infiltration basin to take 100 of the wastewater stream. If they are able to go this route, it takes them out of the jurisdiction of the EPA. So their appeal to DEQ is to move forward on infiltration. The big hang-up for infiltration is total dissolved solids.
They are in the process of testing all the wells around the infiltration site. If the quality of the water they are putting into infiltration, is as good as or better than the quality of the water that is coming out of the wells currently, then they are good. Cost wise it is about the same as treatment at a plant. He added that infiltration is used all across the country.
Mike Roach indicated that Representative Simpson has been attempting to defund some of these things and get them to back off to late 70’s funding levels. You have these laws then are put on the books; underneath these you have rules that are developed to enforce them. Right now we have the problem with food safety. They wanted to protect from foreign bodies coming in. If you have some animal die upriver on the Boise then everybody’s water is going to be bad. It is the Food Safety Modernization Act. On the face of it, it looked ok. But then the rules get developed and implemented. They are trying to defund this. This is a side issue. There were reasons for the Act, but when it gets done it is over directed.
Tammy said they think there is an opportunity for reclaimed water to be used as a viable tool to increase the agricultural water supply.
Agricultural Industry Water Quality Programs
Dee Carlson – Water Quality Specialist – Idaho NRCS
James Eller –District Conservationist – Caldwell Office, NRCS
James introduced himself and indicated his office serves Canyon and Ada Counties. He introduced Dee from their State office.
The NRCS is part of the Dept. of Agriculture and they primarily do conservation planning. It is 100% voluntary and they are non-regulatory. John said it is nice to know of a federal agency that is non-regulatory….
They provide technical assistance with private land owners. They also provide assistance to the soil and water conservation districts and carry out the Farm Bill programs. They do the nationwide soil survey. They have a resource online called web soil survey where you can create a parcel layer and find out what soil you have on the land. It is actually is the world’s largest natural resource data base. Web Soil Survey Website
The NRCS also does the snow survey and do a lot of forecasting for run-off. John asked how early in the season do they start forecasting. James said usually, it is when the snow starts flying.
Elting interjected that they had a group of citizens to come to the Valley County planning and zoning commission and ask the cloud seeding equipment of Idaho Power be a conditional use permit. They don’t want cloud seeding to be a permitted use any more. Their complaint is the iodine they shoot into the air.
Rick asked if they look back to check the accuracy of the forecasting. James said that they do check the accuracy and do a lot of analysis of their forecasting work.
James said one of the common resource concerns in the Treasure Valley includes wind erosion. Some of the practices they prescribe to deal with this are; no till/strip till farming (minimizing tillage and soil disturbance), residue management/mulch till (ensuring there is some sort of residue left on the surface), and cover crops, which are growing in popularity.
A cover crop is growing something over the winter months that cover the bare field. A lot of farmers are concerned about water usage for cover crops. They have recently seen quite a few studies that show that this is a break even proposition. The crops do take moisture out of the soil but by covering the surface you reduce irradiation from the sun.
Irrigation induced erosion is primarily caused by surface irrigation. But there is some move toward sprinkler systems. A lot of their mission is to improve the water quality and reducing surface irrigation helps them get there.
John asked if they are getting any push back from irrigation districts as you help farmers convert to sprinkler systems. James said that they do hear some arguments about lack of drain water for reuse. But there are trade-offs for everything. We have to meet the requirements of the TMDL and they are trying their best to get there.
Brad asked about sediment basins and what kind acceptance is James getting. James said that sediment basins are difficult. Some of the more progressive farmers actually see a need for more sediment basins. For example, Watson Ag is taking coop water and passing it through a sediment basin before they pump it into the pivot. They think it is a no brainer. If you put in the sediment basin you reduce the filtration costs. The argument always is that you have to clean the sediment basins out every year.
They also encourage filter strips at the edge of the field. These are not very popular in Canyon County because they don’t want to give up the ground it takes from production. Tom asked how that worked. James said that you put a 20′ strip on the tail end of the field before the water goes into the tail water ditch. It is a strip that is double seeded with usually winter wheat. This will filter nutrients and sediment. James added that it is about 60% effective at removing sediment.
Elting asked if there was any kind of break on property taxes for planting the filter strip because it would be land of no use. James said they have an incentive payment for planting the filter strip and is supposed to off-set this.
Tammy mentioned, as you look at these more sustainable practices with water use, the result is that it is depleting our shallow water aquifer. Is the NRCS looking at recharge and infiltration systems or other ways to counteract the effect on the aquifer? James said it is possible to look at alternatives. For example, Twin Falls as some old gravel pits that they are using as injection sites. He continued that what we have is an artificial aquifer that we have created via irrigation.
James said drip irrigation is growing in popularity. They have seen a huge increase in the interest in drip irrigation and the agency does its best to try to encourage this practice.
Elting asked if they have had a problem with plasticizers showing up in the wastewater. James said he has not heard of any issues in this regard. He has heard issues about algae in the lines.
Tammy wanted to go back to the shallow aquifer question. You see irrigation companies that require tiling of ditches which is also affecting the shallow aquifer. What does the NRCS think about not tiling ditches and other waterways? You may give them recreational immunity to keep them open. Then you use best practices and filtration to help filtrate the water which eventually discharges into the river.
James said they fully agree with that. They have put in some creative wetlands to serve that purpose. They have decided they don’t drain wetlands anymore. This has been policy since the 80’s. They have about 4 or 5 constructed wetlands in the valley that do just what Tammy explained.
They have another 319 funding project that is going to be going in. Idaho Watershed Solutions is doing a little constructed wetland and are going to be collecting some good data that will be evaluating the feasibility of putting in these constructed wetlands in key locations at the end of the drains or canals.
Tammy said she knows the Congressional delegation knows our thoughts on irrigation districts because of the challenges we have had. If we can’t encourage irrigation districts to work with cities especially where they are surrounded by urban environments, maybe cities could take on some irrigation infrastructure within its boundaries. Cities could incentivize natural vegetation and stop dredging waterways. We could help with creating these ecosystems within urban areas that could recharge your aquifer and filtrate and clean the water.
James said that unfortunately they have to go in and dredge out the canal occasionally because they fill up. They had a proposal from co-op canal to put in a very large sediment basin through 319 funding. His point being, there are some canal companies that are interested in working with the NRCS in key locations.
Brad asked if James had good communication with the canal companies. James felt he did. In the past there was a small adversarial relationship, but recently he has been attending the canal company meetings and explaining the programs that are available and where the opportunities lie. They have been receptive to this so far. You have to understand, their agency deals primarily with the private land owner or Ag producer. The canal company is not an Ag producer. They are looking at other ways to fund these projects and feels the 319 grants fit the bill.
Brad asked if canal companies have any regulatory stipulations to deal with their till water? James said there are none that he is aware of.
Keith said that he remembers the same conversation a couple years ago. He pointed out that the when you put in sediment basins and filtrate it takes water, and one of the results is no water at Wilder at the end of the system. Brad agreed and said the canal companies look at it as they are a conveyance structure. And the conveyance structure has to do with velocity and thru put as well as timing.
Brad said he thinks it would be beneficial if municipalities tried to start talking and understanding more of the goals of canal companies. We really have different goals. Even though their waterways flow through our city limits, their goals and our goals are quite a bit different. Even the City of Boise’s deal on the Dixie Drain went in adversarial. Those three canal companies down there view municipalities extremely adversarial and here was no communication throughout the permit process.
Tammy said she is sorry. She has tried to communicate with irrigation districts. She will sit in their lobby until she is next on their agenda. They don’t have public access. She will go through two locked doors to get into their public meeting room and then she is uninvited after her agenda item is concluded. She feels they don’t communicate. They offered to have their water guy sit in on their meetings to just be a reference to enable the city to know what their concerns are and how they can be part of solutions. We do understand their goals and we want to be a part of that and work together. The canal companies have not been interested in working together and they don’t want to give us access to their information. That is what is frustrating. We do want to be sensitive to their issues and work together.
Brad said that this has been his experience as well. He has went and had to sit outside and was ushered in only when he is on the agenda. He is not disagreeing. What he is saying is, we have had untold years of this history of animosity and it is only going to get worse. If they are not going to be smart enough to want to start working together, then we need to target board members that are coming up for election. Tom said he tried to get someone to run for the board of a canal company operating in Meridian, but the guy was disqualified because he lived in a rented house.
James said he is getting from canal companies that they want to do this on a voluntary basis. He suggests we find ways to make it work for Ag production and conservation purposes. Another thing too, EPA is the one designating what these water bodies are going to be. You guys got to make sure your reading your TMDL’s, soon to be completed, to see what their definition is. Right now, they have suggested that all canals and tributaries are going be required to meet 20 milligrams per liter sediment discharge rate.
James said that organic matter depletion is another issue we have in the valley. Organic matter does a lot of things for the soil. It stores nutrients it also holds moisture. They are working with farmers to increase organic inputs into the soil and minimize tillage. The Ada Soil/Water Conservation District recently obtained a no-till drill for farmers in the valley which costs $13 per acre.
With regard to financial assistance programs of the NRCS, their bread and butter in the valley is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). This year they received just under $1 million for the water quality initiative. This provided funding for about 20 projects and they expect to get this funding next year. The three watersheds they are targeting with this funding are the Dixie Slough, Lower Sand Hollow Creek and Outlet Boise River.
Under the Conservation Stewardship Program they try to reward good stewards and farmers that are doing a good job of managing their property. Under the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program they can do some wildlife enhancement on private Ag land. However, they do not see much participation in this program.
They accept applications for financial assistance year round, but only give out funding primarily in the winter months. He recommends people come in six months prior to the deadline so they can help them develop a conservation plan. The conservation planning process is very comprehensive and takes about 150 hours of NRCS’s time to do planning, environmental analysis and the engineering work association with each project.
Briefly some statistics.
93% of Canyon County’s land is privately owned.
84% of Canyon County’s land is in agricultural use.
There are 3,718 cropland and irrigated farms in Canyon County totaling 322,800 acres.
Canyon County has a diverse livestock and dairy industry, including 35,000 milk cows and 115,000 beef cows and calves.
Agriculture and Agribusiness constitutes 32% of all base sales and 23% of all jobs in the county.
John asked who actually does the projects. James said that most land owners contract the project work out. There are several entities in the valley that farmers work closely with.
Dee Carlson said that water quality concerns are a result of cumulative impact and agriculture is one source. Their goal is to work with the State to meet the water quality laws and rules. Their main emphasis is on prevention.
For this fiscal year they have had several water quality accomplishments. Statewide there were almost 200,000 acres that were treated under conservation practices to address water quality. The majority of those acres received some sort of financial assistance. There were 16,500 acres that received treatment in the treasure valley.
Dee said they look at individual fields to address conservation practices. They utilize a variety of tools and work with a variety of small producers. In order to get financial assistance the applicant must produce at least $1,000 of agricultural products and the assistance must be used to implement conservation practices that address resource concerns. Access to the financial assistance is highly competitive and applications are given priority that address multiple resource concerns.
EQIP is their major program to address water quality and other resource concerns. There are specific initiatives under this program. Water quality, sage grouse and soil health are some of the initiatives.
Statewide under the EQIP program they have served almost 200,000 acres and have a funding obligation of almost $16 million. For the CSP program they have served almost 64,000 acres for $418,000. On a local level they served 25,618 acres and have a financial obligation of $4.6 million under EQUIP and served 44,650 acres for $168,230 in obligation under the CSP program.
John had a question on the sediment issue on the river. So we have lucky peak dam that captures sediment and we have in essence a clean river bottom. Then we have the necessary operations of the irrigators to control the flows. At high water, we have significant volumes of gravel moving around. We here this sediment terminology like it is a bad thing. Is there a sweet spot for amounts of sediment in the river that is natural?
James said, the 20 milligrams per liter that is listed in the sediment TMDL that DEQ is drafting now, is an average of similar watersheds throughout the nation. It is a 30 year average of natural occurring sediment flows.
Dee wanted to talk about some of their other programs that might help with the notion of building cooperative ventures. They do have the Cooperative Conservation Partnership Initiative It is a nationally competitive program. An example of how this was used was the Owyhee Soil Conservation District had a CCPI to address water quality concerns in Jump Creek and Succor Creek.
In all but the Conservation Innovation Grant program the programs are accessed by private agricultural producers under the CIG. It is for any nonfederal agency that has an innovative approach or technology that can be used for conservation with Ag producers. They are primarily demonstration and pilot program type activities and can be used to bring successful approaches elsewhere into the local area.
Tom had a question. They have been talking with Simplot which is a private landowner. They have been talking to the City of Nampa about taking their entire wastewater stream if they convert it to class A. They will pipe it about 3 miles to a farm area. Would any of these programs help under this scenario? They do have income limits for applicants and the size of Simplot would preclude any participation in the funding programs. But there may be a way it could qualify. Dee stated that the CIP would be the vehicle and you would have to show what the conservation benefit would be.
Dee said that the NRCS does fully support the use of environmental markets. Any conservation practices implemented using NRCS financial assistance to the landowner/client. There is potential for funding edge-of-field water quality monitoring to establish baseline data and estimate load reductions due to conservation.
Water Quality Trading
Barry Burnell – Water Quality Division Administrator, Idaho DEQ
Barry said he was here to talk about water quality trading. There are two components of training that he wants to discuss. First trading then offsets. As far as trading goes, it is in the State’s water quality standards. In essence it says that the development of TMDL’s may include pollutant trading.
The purpose of trading is to establish a business-like method of focusing on water quality and bringing local solutions to the problems. It normally involves dischargers that have a pretty high cost to reducing a pollutant. So, phosphorous as a nutrient and temperature as a thermal pollutant are two that have a pretty high cost associated with them. They would have the ability to be traded for less costly pollutant reduction methods. That is where you get this ability to enter into this voluntary relationship to reduce the cost of complying with an NPDES permit.
There are five major components to trading. There is a trading framework, trading parties, a commodity, credits or measurable amounts of a commodity to trade, and ratios to ensure environmentally equivalency of trades.
With trading there is a discharger and there are other dischargers or nonpoint sources you trade with. A nonpoint source would be a land owner that would install a certain type of best management practices to improve water quality. Commodities are typically phosphorous and temperature. They do have sediment now as an offset.
In looking at a trading framework they have their trading guidance document they finished in 2010. One of the components of the document is developing a trading framework. They have federal funds to set up trading frameworks for the lower Boise and the Snake. Development of a framework would typically come after the TMDL has been established.
One of the things you can’t do with a trade is, create an area of stream or river where it still has localized impacts. Where the water quality is very bad and downstream it is good. Part of the idea with trading is you are trading with a source upstream of where the pollutant is having its impact and you’re avoiding having localized impacts.
Tammy said let’s take the Boise case. They can discharge a higher load because they are going to correct it downstream. But they are increasing the load in the river, so when Meridian goes to discharge, if they put the river over the level, it almost penalizes Meridian. Barry said he understands the comment, but let’s take a look at the Boise permit. They are allowed to discharge at 5.8 milligrams per liter of total phosphorous. Over the course of the next ten years they will get down to 500 micrograms per liter. Then with the Dixie Offset that was put in their permit, their discharge limit will vary between 250 and 350 micrograms per liter depending on river flow. The basis for that is the water quality in the south channel being below the target of the Snake River/Hells Canyon TMDL of 70 micrograms per liter. So that particular discharge in the south channel keeps the river below 70 micrograms per liter. And when that permit was reauthorized, one of the concessions made in that permit was, should there be other dischargers interested in this approach to keep the south channel at 70 micrograms. The allocation that was done could be opened and part of it allocated to other dischargers.
Barry said this is a good time to announce that IACI and their environmental subcommittee has voted to pursue primacy in this legislative session and have drafted legislation to start the primacy process. IACI is willing to include fees as part of that legislation. The Director has asked him and his staff to investigate other states that have done primacy packages to see the level work involved.
Barry said they are seeing two activities that are related. One is their request for funding to update the decision unit and do a two year effort to push for primacy. Separate from their effort is IACI’s. If they are going to have a 5-year schedule set up to seek primacy (typical time frame), they have a schedule on which segments come in, what rule, what guidance and funding structures are front loaded in the first year and a half. Once you start to implement primacy it comes in batches. When you look at Alaska, they got municipalities first, then they did forestry and aquaculture, then they did stormwater and bio solids then they did mining. So they would have to build a sequence like this for implementation.
When we are talking about nonpoint source credits, we almost have to calculate the credits. You have to do monitoring and verification that the BMP’s have been installed and are functional. It has to be operated and maintained so it continues to achieve that pollutant reduction that is necessary for the trade. We can now determine there are credits that can be transferred.
EPA does have a trading policy and it depends on who you talk with at the EPA on whether they support this or not. This is really part of why the Willamette Partnership Joint Regional Agreement was set up. The joint regional agreement on water quality trading is really to get the three states (OR, WA and ID) and EPA to have facilitated discussions and come to conclusions on what would be best practices for water quality trading. It is grant funded through the NRCS Conservation Initiative Grant and is occurring now through 2015. They have had three meetings and there was an open house on August 22. Much of the Partnership member staff was in attendance.
When we talk about the Boise project at the Dixie Drain, this was really an offset. It is done to meet permit limits and the goal is to retire pollutants. We have an example of a nutrient offset with the Dixie Drain and we also have an example of sediment offset in Twin Falls.
The Dixie Drain nutrient offset is a 1.5 to 1 ratio as the reduction for phosphorous. It is a constructed wetland. It is part of the City of Boise’s permit. When the permit is mature and the compliance schedule is completed, their average total phosphorous limit is 14 lbs. per day. In the Dixie project, they have to remove a minimum of 25 lbs. per day. So the ratio here is about ¾-1. They did a ten year compliance schedule to work through the process.
For the City of Twin Falls, they had a sediment discharge permit limit. It was easier for them to meet by developing constructed wetlands on city property with the Twin Falls Canal Company as a co-sponsor. One of the associated additional benefits from reducing the sediment in this project is that it also removes about 600 tons a year of phosphorous. Their objective was to have a 200 ton/year reduction in sediment. The project however removes about 460 tons/year of sediment.
In conclusion, trading is a way to provide lower costs to meet the TMDL. Trading can involve nonpoint sources. We must have a market of sellers and buyers for it to work and the trade must be enforceable and accountable.
Practical and Credible Water Quality Trading
David Primozich – Senior Ecosystem Director, The Freshwater Trust
David said The Freshwater Trust does a lot of work in Eastern Oregon and a big part of what they do is working with Ag. He thinks that what is happening in Idaho is encouraging. Partly it is because so much has happened with the EPA and policies and the knowledge gained on how to develop these systems. At this point, the timing it takes from contemplating trades to getting transactions in place should be a lot shorter now.
The Freshwater Trust is a conservation organization. They are not the normal conservation organization in they don’t sue people…laughter. They believe that in order to achieve their objectives, they have to have a mechanism where private land owners have the ability to produce food and get things done that enhance the environment. The philosophical difference allows them to think through the science around what they need.
He provided a real example of an actual trade for temperature that occurred in Medford, Oregon. The Medford regional plant serves about 170,000 residents in Ashton, County. They were experiencing a really big exceedance in their thermal load based on new limits placed in their permit. He asked the members present how many were seeing thermal loads in their permits. He said there were not near enough hands raised and said he expected we will see a lot of thermal load limits in a lot of permits.
The mechanics of how a thermal trade works are almost exactly the same as a trading program for phosphorous. The differences will be the measurements and the actual management practices that will be installed, monitoring procedures, the ratios and the attenuation of the watershed.
Medford was looking at some really expensive options. Their most viable option was to dig a giant hole to accept all of their discharge for the month of October. Once the spawning period was over they could pump it back into the stream. It was a silly solution and everyone hated the idea. It had no environmental benefit and was really expensive.
The next best alternative was theirs. It had an $8 million price tag for the restoration of riparian vegetation. The purpose being the vast majority of effluent in the system was from the absence of shade on the stream that had been removed for various reasons over a century. Installing that shade where it used to be is way more cost effective and better for the environment. What the City lacked was the mechanism where they could go out and make that restoration happen. The problem was the need to develop contractual relationships with a couple hundred farmers.
Before you get to trading, you have to get over the fundamental inequity in the regulatory requirements for point sources and nonpoint sources. In order for trading to work, three things have to be in place. For anyone to engage in this you have to have a “felt” need and this comes in the form of a NPDES permit. It operationalizes the limits that are described in the TMDL.
The second thing you need is clear requirements. It is not enough to say we need to reduce nutrients; we have to know exactly how we are going to measure the reduction, what kinds of actions count toward the reduction, where they occur, how you track them over time and importantly how you convince a skeptical environmental and legal community that these things are real.
The last thing you need is a clear system for delivery of credits that are secure. Baseline data is required. Moving forward, one of the challenges they are seeing with a program in Ohio is the absence of baseline data. Baseline data is what drives the calculation of what they refer to as uplift. If you say you’re going to reduce five lbs., there is a need to know how you are measuring that reduction.
He believes you need the ability to say I need x amount of lbs. or thermal credits over an x amount of time. Who can provide those to me? Then you need someone to take the risk of sourcing and developing a project, having the credits verified, registered and available for sale in order for you to have the level of security needed in an NPDES permit.
In summary, nonpoint actions are less expensive than technological solutions. However, he has worked on one project where it was less expensive to install a cooling tower. Politically, nonpoint actions happen locally and create jobs. Ecologically, there is not even a comparison. The value of chilling water at the point of discharge is nearly always undetectable in the system. The vast majority of a temperature load is coming from other sources. Finally, the action must be turn-key for facilities.
Update on Lower Boise TMDLs
Lance Holloway – Surface Water Manager, Idaho DEQ Boise Regional Office
In the surface water group, their main projects are writing TMDL’s for the region and also do 401 certifications of both the NPDES permits and the 404 dredge permits. The 401 is basically where they look at NPDES permits and make sure they meet the water quality standards for Idaho.
They are working on the sediment and phosphorous TMDL’s for the lower Boise River. They work with the Watershed Advisory Groups as much as they can while working on the pieces of the TMDL. They have a host of subcommittees, technical advisory committees and have modeling break-out groups all working on various aspects. These TMDL’s are pretty intensive and they try to work with the stake-holders as much as possible. They appreciate the participation of the city/county staff in this process.
Their TMDL priorities right now on the lower Boise are sediment and E-coli. That is for the tributaries of the Boise as we already have a Boise River TMDL for these two. Those TMDL’s as they are, don’t really have any impact on municipalities with respect to waste load allocations.
John said we do have Mason Creek that is under the jurisdiction of Pioneer Irrigation. So when you do a TMDL for Mason Creek, how does that impact Pioneer Irrigation. Lance said, for one, they don’t regulate agriculture. They are going to target an allocation that would be helpful to Mason Creek and the river system. We identify them through implementation as to what they can do to help meet those sediment needs.
John said Greenleaf is discharging cleaner water into a system. Mason Creek is brown. The old notion and the whole topic of diluting dirty water with cleaner water, you end up with a better product overall. Lance said the city’s contribution is they are actually cleaning up the drains when it comes to sediment.
He had spent the morning with BMP (best management practices) Ag technical advisory committee to the WAG. They are working on ways to find out what we can do on the Ag side to meet the reasonable assurance to meet the target on the TMDL. Ag is saying they are on board with the Boise River TMDL. The targets are a 37% reduction on current operations. To establish this level of BMP’s is a huge cost. Unfortunately they can’t look to cities for trades on BMP on sediments right now. They can for phosphorous in the future that will include sediment. The reality is there is a limited amount of voluntary BMP’s.
The TMDL also has a watershed plan that we can find money with. It is still a small drop of money considering the amount of acres involved.
Their current target for sediment is 20 milligrams per liter for four months, this kind of matches up with the irrigation season. For E-coli, the target is 126 coliform units. He has not heard of any municipalities that are struggling to meet that.
He has been meeting with irrigation districts in the bottom end and they have been complaining about geese and ducks in Boise. The guys in the bottom end can’t grow carrot seed and other products because the water is full of E-coli. The concern for the irrigation districts is the E-coli coming down. What can we do about this long term? How can we work together with Ag to solve this problem?
On the Phosphorous TMDL, the lower portion of the Boise River is the only one that is going to be listed besides the two tributaries, Mason and Sand Hollow. Right now, they are focused on meeting the phosphorous impairment from essentially Middleton to Parma. Troy Smith has been doing a really good job trying to identify what the impairment is. The problem is the standard for phosphorous is a narrative standard not numeric. So you have to answer the question what is the nuisance level of algae. What is a nuisance?
We have identified through research of other states and the WAG has voted on the level of algae that defines impairment. They don’t know what the phosphorous number is. They are working on two different targets. The nuisance algae level target and the Snake River/Hells Canyon TMDL allocation of .07 from May to December.
They are using a model and have been measuring 13 different segments of the river from Boise to the mouth. They are watching phosphorous and algae move through the system and they are modeling this. Once they turn on the computer and process all of the data to identify what it means. They will end up with a number and will have to relate that back to meeting the TMDL allocation of .07.
Tammy asked if the target date for States completion of the phosphorous TMDL of March of 2014 is realistic and attainable. Lance said he had to say yes, because his boss is in the room….laughter. Tammy asked, so we are going to meet the target date for creating the TMDL, what does that mean for implementation. Lance said there has been an implementation plan that has been going on since 1998. They will brush this off and modify the numbers. This implementation plan is based on the sediment TMDL.
Considering you have to have comment periods and they have to send it to EPA for approval. Tammy said they are operating on a 1999 permit. Pete interjected that you will get your permit sooner than completion of the TMDL or it will be close. Then there will be a reopener in your permit, so once the TMDL is done and if your permit needs to be reopened because of the TMDL, it will be. Lance added that the TMDL will have an opener for trading. The trading framework will be developed by, he assumed the WAG. The Freshwater Trust and the Willamette Partnership and other folks in the watershed interested in trading will also have input.
The newly issued NPDES permits in the valley include Boise with the Dixie Offsets, Greenleaf, Kuna and the ones on their table right now are Avimor and Caldwell. On the horizon are Nampa, Meridian and Star.
Barry said that the caveat is that Ag is exempt from the clean water act. The TMDL limits will be voluntary. Elting said however that if you have enough farmers are having a problem with E-coli in the water; they are going to ask for help. Barry said this is not a water quality issue, the quality of bacteria of canal water going out on crops is not a water quality driven limitation, and this is a farm services issue.
Elting said, one of the things that happened in Valley County when they did the phosphorous TMDL for Cascade Reservoir, the farmers went in and decided they are not going to use ammonia phosphate any more. The algae problem in Cascade is not near as bad as it used to be, but it is still there.
Tom said he heard something recently he wanted to clarify in regard to temperature. The person he was talking to was under the impression the State Legislature had something to do with setting of the water temperature standards. Barry said the EPA has regional guidance for surface water temperature. The State evaluates the criteria and has in their water quality standards, for cold water and warm water aquatic life, the temperature standards for those two classes of water bodies. The standards they developed in rule had to be presented to the State Legislature and they have to approve it. The last time the temperature standard was changed was in the mid 90’s.
Barry added that they have in their water quality standards, site specific standards for temperature that identify the Snake River below Hells Canyon, the Boise River and Indian Creek.
Legislative Issues Discussion
Seth Grigg – Policy Analyst, Idaho Association of Counties
Ken Harward – Executive Director, Association of Idaho Cities
Ken provided a handout of things he sees on the horizon. One thing he is seeing different with the Legislature that he has not seen before, they are out way early on fundraising for campaigns.
With regards to transportation funding, the last time there was an increase in the gas tax was 1996. There are serious discussions happening with a broad stakeholder groups. Everything from the Association of General Contractors, trucking associations, major industry, cities, counties and others involved in that conversation. Senator Brackett who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee is very engaged traveling the state and holding meetings. He floated some bills right at the end of the session last year that would have generated in the neighborhood of $220 million with the intent these funds would flow through the existing highway district account. They put out a spreadsheet to all the cities as to what their share would be assuming it went through.
The reality is, the purchasing power of the money flowing through the highway distribution account has diminished significantly. It is down about 60% in terms the purchasing power of those dollars compared to 1996. Even though the State has not increased fuel taxes, the cities, counties and highway districts have relied more and more on property taxes to fund their roads and streets.
Seth said one of the things they are experiencing at the county level that Valley County is very well of, the federal dollars coming in from federal lands which goes towards roads and schools has diminished between 10-15% a year since 2008. Elting said for Valley County it is $1.6 million.
Local Option is getting some conversation. Senator Winder is circulating drafts based on the Oklahoma City model. The Oklahoma model is a simple majority for approval. It does not have a feature for debt. Also there are other groups that are looking at something similar to what came out of the House a couple years ago.
Medicaid expansion is going to be huge. In regards to this debate, last year legislators said it was the most divisive issue. Seth said that as they have looked into it, there still would have to be an indigent fund to cover indigent burials and other small expenses. They have draft language Tony has been working on that says any savings would be a direct tax reduction.
In regard to the Personal Property Tax, Ken felt this was a tremendous success for local government in this last session. It gave relief to 89% of those that pay personal property tax. Seth said they will have a piece of legislation they will introduce that will provide some technical corrections. In the implementation of HB315 there were a few administrative problems that arose that were not foreseen.
With regard to NPDES Primacy, because of increased workload associated, DEQ will need an operation that will have between 32-34 FTE’s. They have had some history on this. Six years ago AIC membership passed a resolution supporting primacy and putting forth a plan to pay the city share. Provided that the other sectors, Ag, Aquaculture, mining etc. pay their share. Ag is more interested now because they are falling under a pesticide permit.
The very last item, State-collected city revenues is always a big issue. There is always a list of ideas on how to spend that money elsewhere. This is always a challenge to protect those revenue sources.
John asked what is the motivation behind Representative Luker’s legislation requiring mandatory election of council members by district. Ken said this bill died in committee. Tammy indicated they would probably try it again. She said they had a discussion earlier about making local government partisan positions. Seth indicated they have this discussion every year. If they introduced a bill to depoliticize county elected offices it would not go anywhere. It makes sense for County Commissioners to be political because they do have a legislative function. Looking at an Assessor or Clerk, they are administrative for the most part.
Tammy said another thing that was discussed that morning were the qualification requirements to run for local government. It is ironic that to serve on a planning and zoning commission requires two years of residency. Whereas, to be a Mayor or City Council member it only requires 30 days of residency.
Seth said one of the issues that will have a big impact on counties is, what is the State going to do with the public defense system we have. The public defense interim committee is meeting right now. We are in a bind. If the State doesn’t improve the statutory framework we have, the ACLU has a lawsuit ready to file. It is a guaranteed win for the ACLU. If you go around the State, there is discrepancy among counties. There are discrepancies on the standards that are in place, on payment and others. Ada County has a great system in place. But they have the resources to have an in-house office. Other counties don’t. Right now, counties are paying out approx. $21 million a year for indigent public defense. It is not enough money and counties don’t have the money to pay for it. Either the State is going to have to come up with additional money for public defense or we are going to get into a lawsuit potentially. If this happens, the court will mandate that something happen and it will be a big drain on counties.
Seth said another piece of legislation they are going to introduce will say there will be uniform benefit to taxing districts when urban renewals’ close. The bill they ran last year on personal property tax was silent on what happens with the replacement dollars when a district dissolves. The tax commission has come out strongly saying that unless they have statutory language on what to do with those dollars, they won’t be appropriated. They are going to introduce a bill that requires when a URD or any taxing district dissolves; the money would go back to the county to be distributed pro rata to the various districts. As it is now, when a district dissolves, the replacement money goes back to the State.
Tammy said last year, Rick and John worked on court fees. The Association of Idaho Cities was ready to go forward on it and the Association of Counties said not this year. So is this on the radar for this next year. Seth said they won’t be addressing that this session. In their view, you have to take care of the whole system at the same time. Court fees are significantly underfunded on what counties get. These fees haven’t been increased in 20-30 years.
They have a county clerks committee that has been meeting on this issue. The direction they provide for them will be valuable for looking at this in the next few years.
Seth said they have a proposal dealing with hospital exemptions that their membership is going to take up. There is concern that doctor’s offices are falling under the hospital exemption. He doesn’t see that happening all over the State and if the Commission is doing their due diligence this won’t be the case. Hospital exemptions have to be renewed every year. If you have a piece of property that you question its exemption, the next year when the hospital applies for it, you can pull that particular parcel.
Brad asked about managed recharge. Ken said there is draft language that is being worked on by a committee of the Idaho Water Users Association. On managed recharge, one of the points in the legislation that has been drafted, when you do it you have to enhance the aquifer. What does enhance mean. If you look at the graphs that the hydrologists and department has put together, it will show at the turn of the century the amount of water in the eastern snake plane aquifer. Then when we started irrigating, the aquifer started drying up. Water rights were based on the higher amount of aquifer and over a hundred years we now have more water rights than we have water. If we are going to now give credit for someone to recharge the aquifer we want to enhance it. Simplistically, if you want to get credit for 10 gallons of water, you must put in 12 gallons.
Tammy said wouldn’t it make sense because it is a Statewide issue with Statewide impact that the Director of Water Resources would take it up and put together a committee to address this issue. But they need to have all affected stakeholders at the table instead of just the water user’s attorneys.
Brad said they went down the recharge idea when they were putting together their NPDES permit. They ended up backing out of this because it was too squirrely.
Tammy said her staff mentioned something about dig lines that she doesn’t understand. Ken said they are involved in this. A very large group consisting of utilities, irrigators, cities and counties are involved with trying to craft some legislation on notices when you do an excavation (when you dig). He indicated he would get her the language that is being proposed.
Tammy said every 4th of July the fireworks topic comes up. She knows the Fire Chiefs Association continues to be frustrated with it. They always get the phone calls and get to put out the fires. When are we going to address illegal fireworks? Ken said the issue comes down to Idaho Law says safe and sane fireworks. But there are dealers which sell fireworks where the buyers sign a statement saying they won’t be using them in Idaho. The City of Meridian can pass an ordinance saying you can’t use them here. The problem would be that if every city or county doesn’t pass a similar ordinance, you become an island.
Ken added that the fireworks suppliers hires lobbyists and are very active. When Senator Darrington was chair of judiciary, Ken remembers going into his office with the Fire Chief by his side to talk about it. It comes down to the phony declaration and the need to enforce that. Senator Darrington said, Ken I am glad you are here. Every year he goes to Wyoming to buy fireworks. At his farm in Declo, it is a big deal for his family. Ken understands and the Bill keeps dying.
John asked about traffic incident response fees and restrictions. Ken said there have been two bills that would have been a prohibition against cities, counties and fire districts for charging for the clean-up of these incident responses. They have opposed this. The insurance industry is calling this a misery tax. Poor Rick got into this accident in Garden City and then to just to pile it on, you show up and give him a bill for cleaning up the antifreeze on the street.
Darin asked about the Eminent Domain issues on Ken’s list. Ken said there was a bill introduced that prohibited the use of Eminent Domain for any pathway or greenbelt. Mayor Evans showed up and gave excellent testimony on this. The example was he had a home owners association came to him and requested the use of Eminent Domain to connect some pathways.
John said that what the legislature and others don’t believe about Eminent Domain is how dangerous it is, and this is why it is seldom used. If you have a contested condemnation, you have a virtually open ended liability. At the end of the day, you as the City, taking someone’s property away against their will, will get to sit in front of a jury who are going to decide what the appropriate compensation is going to be. It can be a real interest issue. He worked as an expert witness on a number of those cases on the Eagle Bypass. He saw awards come in that were virtually hundreds of thousands more than the appraisals.
Tammy said her council did it against her judgment. They decided to use Eminent Domain to determine the cost of a property. The property owner said he would sell the property but wouldn’t name a price. Then when he did give a price, he times it by 30.
Ken said there is another interesting component of Eminent Domain. Senator Hill who sits on the Local Government Taxation committee brought up during the hearing that there is a tax advantage. If you are the property owner and you are in negotiation about condemning, you can work out a friendly condemnation where the landowner gets like a 10-30 exchange type of advantage.
Brad asked about the public records discussion with the Idaho Attorney General’s Office. Ken said they had a call from the AG’s Office regarding they had heard some complaints about cities and counties not complying with public records requests. As the conversation went on, they shared with the AG about how some of the requesters are using this to create trouble or harassment of the governmental entity. A good way to have a conversation is to ask, what is a record? Emails for example are not a record it is a medium of conversation. One thing we may do is try to clean up the public records law.
Brad said they have had two reporters who have requested all documentation and communications regarding the sewer treatment project. This took over 16 years so it is four boxes of paperwork. It upsets him that there can’t be some kind of quantitative limit. Ken said that we do have a relative benefit in our law compared to other States. You do have to provide the first 100 pages without cost. If the request is over that, you can charge per page.
One of the things this does on voluminous requests is give a quote and ask it be paid up front.
Darin asked what Reasonably Anticipated Future Needs was on the list of legislative issues. Ken said the Director of Water Resources started drafting legislation saying the 50 year planning horizon isn’t practical. As we got into conversation, the Director dropped it.
Bill asked what issues we should put on the agenda for the TVP Legislative Luncheon being held on October 24. Tammy said that Tom had brought up Jeff Sayers incentives for attracting and expansion of businesses and this should be part of the discussion.
Bill said for this budget this next year; we did get another $10,000 from the State for the SAUSA Project. He indicated that he took $7,500 of this and reduced the budget by that amount. He had to keep an additional $1,840 due to the raise the Partnership gave him last September. He added some money to the “Regional Meeting” line item because the Christmas Luncheon we co-host every year with COMPASS has increased in cost to where it pretty much takes this whole line item. He is planning a Legislative Luncheon on October 24 which will require some extra money to this line item.
Bill said he added some money to a Membership’s line item. When he started with the Partnership, there was enough money in the budget for him to be a member of both AIC and IAC. But shortly thereafter he had to eliminate this line item due to upcoming SAUSA Project costs. He said he felt it was important for him to become a member of one of the two organizations this next year and this is what the $360 in this line item is for.
Darin asked if we are going to have Bill participate in meetings north and east to drum up support for the statewide SAUSA Proposal, do we have enough in the budget for him to go? Bill said that on the upcoming Capital for a Day event on September 30 in Potlatch, he was planning a steelhead fishing trip and was not going to charge the Partnership for the hour drive from Orofino to Potlatch. Darin continued that it seemed to him that the Partnership should help pay for mileage to Potlatch. Bill said that he gets such good mileage with his car that he feels the round trip will only cost him around $70 and he has a free place to stay in Orofino. Tammy said the Partnership should pay for his gas and everyone agreed that is what we should do.
To drum up support in Northern and Eastern Idaho for the Statewide SAUSA Proposal, Bill said he will be working with the local Prosecutors to identify a meeting time and date. He felt these meetings were a long time away and will be communicating with the members when it looks like a good time to hold the meeting. When we hold the meetings, we will attempt to gather Mayor’s and County Commissioners in and around Pocatello and Coeur d’Alene for those meetings.
John asked that our end-game for the TVP is to get statewide buy-in on the SAUSA in the hopes that even more of the expenditures for the SAUSA are going to get picked up by the State. Bill said his goal was to get it down to where the TVP is only obligated for $25,000 where it is $65,000 now. John said he just wanted to identify why we would send Bill north and east.
Keith said he was worried that the State would say the Partnership could handle these costs on our own. John said we started out that way. They are seeing the value and we have the full support of the Director of the Dept. of Corrections. He said he thinks that even the Governor’s Office is seeing that we are taking people that would normally be in the system out into the Federal corrections system.
Bill said, for the last couple of years, the attitude has been that this is a State of Ada Project and the rest of the legislators around the state have been bucking increasing the State’s contribution.
Bill said he has a concern but felt this concern could end up being a negotiation point for us. The cost of the SAUSA Project isn’t $100,000. It is only around $85,000. He feels it could be leverage for us in a lot of ways. One of the thoughts he had as we are going through this process, if the project is funded at the $100,000 level, then that local fund would build up. We might be able to convince the powers that be that this local fund could be used to provide match funding to a local organization that is doing gang mitigation activities.
John said the other thing we have to remember is the U.S. Attorney’s office is picking up around $42,000 per year for training, travel and support. Plus the collateral resources they are using in some of these bigger cases because they are pulling more staff when these occur. Bill added the BMC case is a prime example of this.
Tammy said the other thing is, when we first started going into this, her Council said we don’t have those people here. But when we talked to all of their Chiefs, they may not have those people living in our community, but we know those names. That is what those Mayor’s and Commissioners across the State need to understand. Bill said what he would like her to do is draft a testimonial to that effect. He continued that Christian Nafzger mentioned in his testimonial that these are frequent fliers and are found conducting activities in all of our communities.
Bill mentioned he just got a listing of drive-by shootings in Nampa and Caldwell for the last seven years from Bryan Taylor of the Canyon County Prosecutor’s Office. He shared the spreadsheet with the members and mentioned he would be adding this to the end of the proposal.
There was quite a discussion around the salary of the SAUSA. Bill stated he would try to get Bryan Taylor to come to one of our Partnership meetings to discuss this item. Everyone agreed this would be a good idea.
Bill said that on October 24, we are holding a Legislative Luncheon. He mentioned he had we had sent out a save-the-date notice to all Treasure Valley Legislators and believes there will be a fairly good turnout.
Darin moved to approve the 2013-14 budget and the minutes from the August meeting as amended, Rick seconded. Motion approved unanimously.
Medicaid Expansion & Health Insurance Exchange
Cynthia York – Program Administrator, Idaho Dept. Health and Welfare
Margaret Henbest – Idaho Health Insurance Exchange
Cynthia said the two big things; Medicaid Expansion and Health Insurance Exchange are related but not necessarily interconnected. She will focus her discussion on Health Care System redesign and what Medicaid expansion will play in that redesign.
The State Health Innovation Plan addresses how Idaho is working to make a shift from volume to value in health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was designed to provide access to health care for all. In response to that, Governor Otter appointed a workgroup to study Medicaid expansion and provide recommendations. This workgroup recommended expansion of Medicaid in Idaho with two caveats; build in personal responsibility and to redesign the health care system. In 2013, the Idaho Legislature approved the establishment of a state-based Health Insurance Exchange but did not address Medicaid Expansion. In March, the State received a six month planning grant to develop a State Health Innovation Plan (SHIP).
To be clear, when she talks about Medicaid redesign, she is not only talking about the expansion of Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act but what they are doing to address the challenges and opportunities in the health care system.
Who is eligible for Medicaid? In Idaho, to qualify for Medicaid, you must be under the age of 19, pregnant, over 65, blind or disabled. If we were at full enrollment in Idaho, there would be about 35K people that would come into Medicaid whether we expand or not. If we expand Medicaid, there are approximately another 104K people that would be eligible.
Keith asked why there would be another 35K people coming into Medicaid. Cynthia said under the ACA, the federal government made an adjustment that looks at income level a little different. It is mostly exemption categories, not necessarily your income.
Currently we have several programs that take care of people that are not on Medicaid and do not qualify for any other program. You are looking at the Catastrophic Health Care Program (CAT), the Indigent Program, charitable care from the hospital, and behavioral health programs that are funded out the State’s general fund.
People making up to 400% of the Federal poverty level will be able to get an insurance subsidy. The tragedy in all of this is, those under 100% of the Federal poverty level are not because we are not expanding Medicaid in the State of Idaho. We will continue to paying through the CAT and the medically indigent program for those who fall into that category.
Margaret said the math is really clear. If you look at what you leverage through Medicaid with the federal match or no match, in the immediate future on what we spend at the State and County level. Coverage through Medicaid expansion makes sense. However, it is politically controversial. It is not looking good for this next session because we are coming up on an election year. To add to that, Cynthia said ideologically it is a tough thing to grasp in the State of Idaho when you hear the opinion that Medicaid is broken. Why should we perpetuate this broken system? There are some issues with Medicaid, but there are some issues in health care all together, not just Medicaid. The State of Idaho and the Legislature deserves some credit with the work we are doing with the Health Innovation Plan. We are making some steps forward in improving the health care system.
Tammy said we require people to carry auto insurance and people don’t carry it. God protect the person that gets hit and has severe damages from an uninsured driver, because they end up shouldering the entire cost. What is the penalty going to be? Cynthia said the penalty right now for not carrying insurance is about $96.
Margaret said the other piece that you don’t see is the quality and cost control that are happening and the hospital and provider level. The ACA is ratcheting up pressure on providers to deliver quality services at an affordable price. The federal government is not going to pay through Medicare for things that don’t change people’s lives and improve their health. This is the end result of where we are at. So you take all those calculated savings in Medicare at the federal level and that is what is helping to pay for the subsidies and other parts of the ACA.
Brad said one of his frustrations with the ACA is they have said this is for the nation knowing there is a huge chunk of people that are not going to be included. He doesn’t care if we go to socialized medicine, but let’s make it for everybody. Margaret said the ACA did not intentionally leave people out. The Supreme Court made a provision that allowed States to not do Medicaid expansion. This created the hole for us. Some States have more generous Medicaid to begin with. They were picking up these really low income adults under Medicaid. Idaho is not a generous Medicaid State and that is what created this hole for us.
Cynthia said 18% of Idahoans are uninsured. The majority of those are adults, ages 25-54, with children, with no access to regular healthcare. 68% of those uninsured families have at least one full-time worker. When we get the thought that it is those people that are taking advantage of the system, it is not really true. 67% of this population is below 100% of the federal poverty level. When you look at the numbers, it is a small percentage of people that are taking advantage of the system.
Part of the problem is that the people that don’t have insurance don’t seek preventative care. So when they end up at the emergency room, they are much sicker.
Keith asked about illegal aliens. What is the health insurance system going to do when it comes to illegals? Margaret said with the Health Exchange, as you are applying for insurance, there is a box that asks for citizenship. If you are not a citizen, there is a flag comes back and say they have to show a document to verify citizenship. Keith is worried that a bunch of illegals are going to be able to take advantage of the system. He is worried that false citizenship documents will get people through the system. Is there anyone that is going to be assigned to review the documentation?
Margaret said she did not know the answer to that question and would try to verify the answer.
Cynthia said going back to Medicaid expansion, if a person makes minimum wage in Idaho, that person would qualify for Medicaid under the income levels of 138% of the federal poverty level. So many people in the State are making minimum wage and are not getting insurance through their employer.
Cynthia asked where the uninsured are getting their care. This last fiscal year, 6,000 people accessed the State CAT program. Community Health Centers served 35,000 people a year. Mental Health Centers serve about 4,300 people. On average, 2,000 individuals are released from correctional facilities each year. When they come out, they don’t have insurance. She feels that all of these people would be eligible for Medicaid under redesign.
The costs of maintaining the status quo over the next ten years have been estimated. You are going to have the CAT program, the State Behavioral Health/Public Health program, the County Indigent Program and other various programs that pay for health care. These total around $1.12 billion over the next ten years.
If we expand Medicaid and make the changes they want to do, the costs of Medicaid are going to increase over the next ten years because we are going to add more people. The estimate costs at $648.8 million. However, the other programs costs of $1.12 billion will be savings. So the net savings over the next ten years will be around $478 million.
Cynthia said she wanted to talk about the Healthy Idaho Plan (HIP). This is the plan if they expand Medicaid. The Medicaid expansion work group recommended expanding Medicaid contingent on two conditions. One is called personal responsibility and accountability and the other condition is to redesign the service delivery system.
Under personal responsibility, the recommendation is to require healthcare visit co-pays from all program participants. They are going to provide them with a debit card that can be loaded with the incentive payments that can be used to offset their co-pays. The financial incentive is for healthy behaviors such as completing health assessments, an annual physical, preventative health visits, smoking cessation and weight loss.
Keith asked if this will be part of the Quest Card. Cynthia said it will be a different system but it would be ideal if they were included together and they are working on that. Essentially it would be like St. Lukes system for employees where they require employees to put in healthy alternatives if they want the premium to go down. This program would provide incentives for healthy behaviors. The incentives are designed to encourage healthy behaviors and encourage the patient to actively participate in their health care.
Regardless of the decision to expand Medicaid, Health and Welfare has been working with other agencies (hospitals, provider and third party payers) to redesign the health care system. Through that is the SHIP which addresses the overall healthcare system beyond Medicaid. They were awarded a $3 million six-month model design planning grant. This grant provides financial and technical support for planning and design.
The key to this project is to engage stakeholders in a statewide analysis to look at the current health care system. The goal is to identify those practices that can support a transformation to a new payment and service delivery model.
Margaret said she serves on the Board for the Health Insurance Exchange. She served in the legislature for 12 years and runs a nursing leadership organization. Margaret said this last year the legislature passed HB 248 that established state-based health insurance exchange in Idaho. YourHealthIdaho is Idaho’s new health insurance marketplace. It gives individuals, families and small businesses the tools to shop, compare and make an informed choice on a health insurance plan that is right for them and their budget.
Idahoans between 18 and 64 who are legal residents and are not covered by a private health insurance plan or Medicaid can utilize the exchange. It also works for small businesses that employ less than 50 people. Large businesses (50+ employees) are mandated to offer health insurance to all employees that is affordable. Affordable is defined as 9% of income. The penalty for a large business for not providing health insurance is $2,000 per employee. The employer mandate was suspended for this next year. But they are encouraging businesses to go through the IRS reporting processes so they can analyze and prepare.
Margaret asked why you would go through this online health insurance exchange experience. One there will be a variety of plans. There are 161 qualified plans on the exchange. These plans have to have the same array of benefits. The cost share of the benefits can change in four different metal categories (bronze, silver, gold and platinum). The bronze being the highest deductible and most copay and a lower deductible.
The other thing about the exchange is it is the only place you can capture the federal subsidies. In addition to financial assistance and comparison shopping, the exchange still offers resources. This means you still can access the services and support of insurance brokers and agents to help you with navigation.
Tammy asked if small businesses will be less likely to hire employees and do more 1099 contracts with individuals. Margaret said they will not be penalized. It is all about carrots in this group and they are trying to incentivize and give resources to small businesses to add coverage rather than penalize them for not. Cynthia said, plus they are getting a tax credit for covering employees.