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Idaho lawmakers support plans to help ski areas, water projects

Both the U.S. House and Senate have approved without opposition legislation that would let permitted ski areas in national forests allow other recreational activities, including mountain biking, zip lines, and frisbee golf.

The legislation also lets the National Forest Service to issue year-round permits, rather than seasonal permits.

U.S. Sen. Jim Risch said the measure could be an economic boost to Idaho resorts. “Instead of restricting access to a few months each year, outdoor enthusiasts will be able to enjoy a variety of activities year-around,” he said in a news release Oct. 18. “It will also simplify the process for resort operators.”

Risch also sponsored two bills that unanimously passed the Senate to extend deadlines to start hydroelectric projects on the American Falls Reservoir and Little Wood River

Ranch. Sen. Mike Crapo co-sponsored both bills, which now head to the House. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission oversees both projects. The Little Wood River Ranch project deadline would extend three years, and the American Falls project deadline would extend to 2013.

IBR Staff

PUC sets rate case hearing dates

The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has set hearings for November and December on rate increases for Idaho Power.

In June, the company filed an application for a rate increase of about 9.9 percent; if approved following the hearings, a case settlement will mean the utility receives an increase of about 4 percent, less than half what it wanted. Included in the proposed average 4 percent increase is an increase in the monthly service charge from $4 to $5 per month.

The proposed settlement would allow Idaho Power an annual increase of $34 million. The utility originally sought $83 million.

Public hearings on the settlement are planned for 7 p.m.:

· Nov. 3 in the Power County Courthouse Annex, 500 Pocatello Ave., American Falls.

· Nov. 9 at the Gooding County Planning and Zoning Building, 145 Seventh Ave. East, Gooding.

· Dec. 5 at the commission hearing room, 472 W. Washington St., Boise.

The company cited continued growth in demand for electricity, aging infrastructure and higher compliance and reliability requirements for requesting the rate increase. Idaho Power’s application also said the cost of building materials has increased significantly since it last was granted a general rate increase, in 2009.

The case can be tracked at http://www.puc.idaho.gov/. Click on the electric icon, then on “Open Electric Cases” and scroll to Case No. IPC-E-11-08.

The new rates, if approved, would become effective Jan. 1.

IBR Staff

University of Idaho will work with others on renewable energy research

The University of Idaho will work with two Washington universities that received $80 million to expand the biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture announced major grants Oct. 12 to the University of Washington and Washington State University. The two separate five-year grants are $40 million each.

U of I will be a partner in both programs.

The biofeels industry is strongest now in the Midwest. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said increasing biofuels research in the Northwest will drive economic growth.

The WSU-led grant involves the University of Idaho Colleges of Natural Resources and Art and Architecture. They will work with the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance, which includes researchers from universities, government laboratories and private industry.

The grants are aimed at developing domestic biofuel alternatives for U.S. commercial and military air fleets. NARA researchers envision developing a new, viable, aviation fuel industry using wood and wood waste in the heavily forested Pacific Northwest.

IBR Staff

North Idaho county OKs request for megaload money

The Latah County sheriff has won approval to request money from a company transporting oil equipment for Exxon Mobil along a northern Idaho highway.

County commissioners signed off Oct. 17 on Sheriff Wayne Rausch’s plans to bill hauling contractor Mammoet for the overtime his deputies have incurred while overseeing the shipments amid protests from environmentalists.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports Rausch plans to bill the company for $5,500 to $6,000. Latah County commissioners approved the request, saying taxpayers shouldn’t have to foot the bill.

The city of Moscow, which is the county seat, has issued a similar request for $12,800.

The Imperial Oil/ExxonMobil shipments have been diverted through Moscow on U.S. Highway 95 while a court challenge in Montana holds up transports on the original route on U.S. Highway 12.

The Associated Press 

Labor Department hosting Hispanic Business Seminar in Caldwell

Hispanic government officials and business leaders will offer insight and advice at a Hispanic Business Seminar on Oct. 29 at the Idaho Department of Labor’s Caldwell office at 4514 Thomas Jefferson St.

Sebastian Galvan Duque with the Mexican Consulate in Idaho, will speak first at the event that runs from 9 a.m. to noon. Labor department officials say that if the event is successful, they could hold similar events in other parts of the state.

Also speaking will be Jayson Meline with the Latino Economic and Development Center in Blackfoot, Carlos Duncan with MicroEnterprise Training and Assistance, University of Idaho assistant professor or rural and economic development Abelardo Rodriguez as well as a panel of Hispanic business owners. Officials with the IRS and Small Business Administration will also speak.

IBR Staff

Boise to improve its Lander Street sewer plant

The City of Boise plans to improve its plant on Lander Street south of State Street to comply with changes in water quality standards, said Vince Trimboli, community relations supervisor for Boise Public Works.

Complying with new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards is required for a new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he said.

“One of the major pollutants they are asking us to pretty much eliminate is phosphorous,” Trimboli said.

About $2.1 million in interim improvements must be online in phases by May 1, July 1 and Oct. 1, he said. Money comes from user fees.

Plans call for adding chemicals to the treatment process to remove phosphorous, adjusting effluent pH to make effluent into the adjacent Boise River less acidic, and adding aeration to increase dissolved oxygen in the water to help fish, Trimboli said.

This is the first of several wastewater plant projects in the Boise system, Trimboli said. Up to $60 million in improvements are planned at city plants, he said.

IBR Staff

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