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A Seat in the House

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Some of the activities that are significant to this area

     I write this article at the end of a week that has been of particular interest to me because of activities significant to our area.
    The first involved a meeting of the Legislative Council on River Governance held in Boise on August 16 and 17.
     The Legislative Council on River Governance was established several years ago as a cooperative association of legislators from the states of Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The original purpose of the Council was to establish a communication avenue among Northwest legislators to address the national movement toward deregulation of the electric utility industry. The Council has moved beyond the deregulation issue and has become effective in defining common concerns and developing consensus on issues of environmental and energy interests in the region.
    Senator Laird Noh from southern Idaho is a member of the Council and was also installed as the new Chairman of the Council at the August 16 meeting. Because the August 16 and 17 meeting was to be held in Boise, Senator Noh had the responsibility of setting the meeting agenda.
    Senator Noh informed Senator Shawn Keough and I that it was reported to him as Co-chairman of the Expanded Interim Committee on Natural Resources that following the water meeting in North Idaho, “Some legislators expressed an interest in using the River Governance forum to establish discussions about the Spokane River/Rathdrum Aquifer issues and also the potential impacts upon Lake Pend Oreille from the Rock Creek mining proposal.” He asked us to arrange for a discussion of the mine to be a part of the Council’s meeting agenda.
    Senator Keough and I arranged for Mary Mitchell of the Rock Creek Alliance and June Bergquist of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality to make presentations to the Council.
    Ms. Mitchell provided testimony outlining the concerns the Alliance has with potential impacts of the mine, emphasizing the lessons of history relative to environmental problems associated with mining projects such as those in the Coeur d’Alene, Ida. and Butte, Mont. areas.
    Ms. Berquist expressed appreciation for the agreement reached in the permitting process that would allow Idaho to be a participant in the environmental oversight committee that will be formed if the mine goes into operation, which will be able to implement corrective action if environmental problems develop in mining operations. She expressed concern with the issue of cumulative impacts of mine discharges into Rock Creek that ultimately will reach the Clark Fork and emphasized the need for adequate monitoring to determine if long-term detrimental effects will occur as a result of mine operations.
    Unfortunately, the Montana representatives on the Council were not made aware of Rock Creek Mine being an agenda item and were concerned about being “blindsided” by Idaho. This was an oversight by those setting up the agenda and I expect Montana to take the opportunity to discuss their perspective of the mine in a future Council meeting. Even though not everyone knew before the meeting that the mine would be discussed, I think it was beneficial to the Council to hear the Rock Creek issue. I also believe Montana was okay with most of the discussion, especially since they have the opportunity in future meetings to express their thoughts on the mine.
    The Idaho Transportation Board held their regular meeting in Coeur d’Alene on August 20 and the day before the meeting participated in a tour of state highway improvements underway in Bonner and Boundary counties. Since this is our legislative district, Senator Keough and I joined the Board and Idaho Transportation staff on the tour.
    The tour included a stop at the Sandpoint airport where members of the Airport Advisory Board, county commissioners and others were provided the opportunity to discuss and promote the new air service provided by McCall Air and the economic opportunities it brings to the Bonner and Boundary County areas.
    Although the board tour included other areas of interest, including the completed Fifth Ave. project, the Garwood to Sagle project, and the location of the proposed Sandpoint By-way project, the main purpose of the tour was to provide the Board Members the opportunity to view the Copeland project under construction on Highway 95 north of Bonners Ferry near the Mt. Hall area.
    The Copeland project consists of three segments that will considerably improve Highway 95 from the intersection of Highway 95 and State Highway 1, near Mt. Hall School, to the Eastport border crossing. The first segment that relocates the highway further from the Mt. Hall School is under construction and could be paved this fall, a year ahead of schedule. Work is also underway on segment three, the replacement of two bridges across the Moyie River near Eastport.
    Traffic across the Canadian border has been consistently increasing and completion of this project will greatly enhance the safety of Highway 95 in this area.
    Highway improvements continue to be an area of concern in northern Idaho, but we need to recognize as well what has been done to improve our area. We will have dedicated the new Clark Fork Bridge by the time this edition is published. In addition, on Friday, August 27, the new Kootenai Cut-off Road will be dedicated. Work is also being done on the highway west of Clark Fork, and another segment of upper Pack River road is to be paved this summer. We also have the Garwood-Sagle project and the Dover bridge project in the planning stages as well as the Sandpoint By-way project.
    The Idaho Transportation Board and the Department’s District One staff have been, and continue to be, cognizant of our north Idaho needs and for that we say, “Thanks”!
    Remember that publication of this issue of the River Journal signals the beginning of the fair season in Bonner and Boundary counties. Support your fair and all those who have contributed their time and talents to the success of the fair. Remember also that this is an election year and take the time to visit the political booths at the fairs to learn more about the issues and the candidates that are running for election.
    Thanks for reading and feel free to contact me anytime. My home phone is 208-265-0123 and my home address is P.O. Box 112, Dover, 83825.

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Rep. George Eskridge Rep. George Eskridge the Republican Representative for District 1 in Idaho’s House, George Eskridge can be reached at 208-265-0123 or write PO Box 112, Dover, ID 83825

Tagged as:

energy, deregulation, Rock Creek Mine, Legislative Council on River Governance, Rathdrum Aquifer, Rock Creek Alliance, roads, Garwood to Sagle, Sandpoint Bypass

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