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Roundtable Discussions

Darrell Bolz reported:

Economic activity in the Canyon County area appears to be picking up at a fairly fast pace.

                2 new hotels in Nampa

                1 new hotel in Caldwell

                1 new movie theatre in Caldwell

Gayle Manufacturing (commercial steel fabrication company) – building a facility on 50 acres – Capital expenditures expected to be $25 million.

Urban Renewal in Caldwell:

1) Focusing on the Plaza as well as adding to Indian Creek by demolishing an old motel and making it into a park area.

2) Project Fresh – interested in purchasing property to construct a 190,000 square-foot facility. Expected to bring around 170 jobs.  Sky Ranch area (East of Caldwell on Hwy 20-26).

3) In conjunction with Caldwell Housing Authority has built a house in low income area and will sell it for less than the cost to build. Transportation infrastructure continues to be an area of concern.  Nampa is again applying for a TIGER grant to do work on I-84 between Franklin and Northside.

Caldwell has surpassed 50,000 in population and are now in line to get $419,000 in a Community Block Grant.

The Nampa Chamber in conjunction with the Caldwell/Nampa Chamber Agribusiness Committee put on an Ag Forum in which a panel of agribusinesses discussed the impact of agriculture on Canyon County.  Attendance was 300-325.

Tim Solomon, Rocky Mountain Power, reported:

Increasing pressures to retire coal as an electrical generation source will present challenges in the years ahead in terms of pricing, base load diversity, and the move to renewables that are facing their own individual challenges.

The agreement to remove the four (4) dams in the Klamath River Basin (Oregon and California) will not impact generation for Idaho.  The move highlights continued conflict between tribes, farming, private industry, and environmental advocacy groups.  For rural communities in those states, water storage and access issues are very concerning.

MidAmerican Energy, at least today, has the largest solar array in the world in Antelope Valley California producing 579 MW of electricity.  Solar pricing is dropping over time and becoming more affordable.  The challenge for utilities is how to provide appropriate access to the grid for net metering from such facilities and who pays for ongoing maintenance of the grid.  Subscriber solar is becoming more attractive to customers as an alternative to solar array installations. 

Rural partnerships will be critical in the coming years to ensure that adequate infrastructure is in place to serve the needs of rural customers.  Partnerships will have to address increasing demand, safety, security, mixed use requirements, and technology leveraging.

Jim Werntz, Environmental Protection Agency – Idaho Operations, reported:

Air Emission Studies:   In response to the multi-agency (USDA, EPA, Idaho Department of Agriculture, Idaho DEQ, and INL) coordination underway to assist agricultural producers with bromide contaminated hay, EPA’s Office of Research and Development is undertaking a study of the emissions resulting from field burning.   This research should provide useful information on the safety of this disposal option.   A separate study is planned by the Idaho National Lab (INL), which will investigate the air emissions resulting from incineration of pelletized hay.  

Riverview Construction Site in Orofino:    EPA and Idaho DEQ are working with the owners of a property that received asbestos contaminated fill resulting from improper handling and disposal by a construction contractor.   Clearwater County requested that the Agencies work with the landowners to complete a site investigation to resolve issues that would prevent the sale of the property, which is prime Highway 12 frontage for commercial redevelopment.

Sherri Schwenke,  U.S. Forest Service, reported:

Idaho National Forest Supervisor Meeting

Twice a year, the Forest Supervisors and Deputy Forest Supervisors meet to discuss state-wide topics. We recently met in March; one of the topics being discussed was that of the Good Neighbor Policy. The State Forester joined us for that conversation. We went over the opportunities that could be put to use in working together which would allow the wood products produced by National Forest projects to get to market more quickly using state processes, e.g. state contracting.

Capital Christmas Tree

Theme is “Idaho’s Tree”.  There will be one tree selected from several that Payette National Forest employees will identify. The Capital Landscape Architect will fly out to make the selection. The tree will be cut on November 4th.  It will then begin to make the rounds to various cities throughout Idaho. 11/5 – event in McCall, 11/8 Boise (yes, that’s Election Day), 11/9 Wieser/Council/New Meadows, 11/10 – Grangeville/Lewiston, 11/11 Coeur D’Alene, 11/12 Salmon, 11/14 Idaho Falls/Twin Falls.  Then it will head east, arriving at the US Capital on November 27th.  Many ornament making events are in the planning! Let us know if you want to engage a local school district! (Contact the Payette National Forest).

New Ranger in Cascade

Jake Strohmeyer will begin on May 2nd.  He will be coming from the Payette National Forest where he has been there Staff Officer overseeing recreation, engineering, lands, and minerals.  He is familiar with the Midas Gold project and will be starting up the environmental analyses for a fuels treatment project in the wildland urban interface on the westside of Cascade lake.

Power

Boise National Forest has been working with Idaho Power to address their priorities.  The next one to begin the environmental analysis will be the Horseshoe Bend to Yellow Pine line, which will build in some redundancy to that area as well as, potentially, provide power to the Midas Gold operation.

Secure Rural Schools Act funding

By now, the Resource Advisory Councils (RAC) around the state should have allocated the funds and the funds should be “in hand” if so.  Future of this act is questionable – it has been renewed annually by Congress. This year, the challenge will be RAC membership.  Because the act has not been renewed for the long term, membership has been extended and we have reached the maximum extensions and will have to start recruiting new members should the act get renewed again.

Trout in the classroom

The Boise National Forest has partnered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and Trout Unlimited to bring the trout life cycle to the classroom.  Eggs are provided by the state hatchery, and then biologists and science teachers collaborate to teach the biology of what is happening throughout the life of the trout fry. These programs are occurring in Cascade, Emmett, Horseshoe Bend, Garden Valley, Lowman, Idaho City, and Boise.

Other local school programs

In partnership with the Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission, the Emmett District of the Boise National Forest is putting on a two day event at Sage Hen for local youth to experience the outdoors and learn about multiple-use, ecology, etcetera.

Range/Sage Grouse

We’re in the process of wrapping up our annual operating plan meetings with the ranchers holding permits on the Boise National Forest.  This year there are no changes resulting from the decision on Sage Grouse.  We will be validating the habitat maps which were produced for the Environmental Impact Statement this summer, and most likely, next summer as well.  At this point, we do not know what changes we might have to put into effect, if any.  The Boise National Forest is not in the priority habitat area.

Upcoming Meetings/Conferences of interest May 11&12

The Intermountain Region of the Forest Service is in the process of developing a region-wide climate change vulnerability assessment and adaptation action strategy through the Intermountain Adaptation Partnership (IAP).  The goals of this assessment are to 1) Increase climate change awareness; 2) Assess the vulnerability of resources and ecosystem services to climate change; and 3) Develop science-based adaptation strategies that can be used by national forests and partners to mitigate the effects of climate change.   You can learn more about the project here.  The newsletters under the "News" tab can be a quick easy way to find out more information. 

The partnership just finished hosting and recording five webinars introducing the assessment and is about to host five two-day workshops throughout the region between May 4th and June 2nd.  Webinar and workshop information and links can be found here.  Scroll down for the workshop information and how to register.  Please register by April 20th with gleickhorst@fs.fed.us to help with workshop planning.  Hotel blocks have been reserved, however there are cut off dates for a guarantee of government hotel rates.  More information is below. 

Late in 2017, the assessment efforts will result in a published peer-reviewed General Technical Report (GTR) based on current research.  After the GTR is published, it can be downloaded from:  http://www.treesearch.fs.fed.us/ where FS Research and Development publications can be found.

Art Beal, Idaho Association of RC&D Councils, reported:

The RC&D’s continue to provide the 501-c-3 to their respective areas.  Because it is harder to secure grants requiring the 501-c-3 there maybe changes in the future as to the number of councils here in Idaho.  There may be some mergers in the future.

On the brighter side, the forest coalitions are moving forward with restoring forest health.  With no harvest the volume of material on the ground continues to increase creating opportunity for larger and greater fires.  The coalitions are bringing about some change in this pattern of no harvest.  Here on the Boise front there is a disease control problem in the Bogus Basin Area in one of the Governor’s critical areas that should release some volume as well as improve conditions in the ski area.  There is a second area in High Valley that is about to offer more timber for sale to meet better forest health.  Also through the coalition recommendations the State of Idaho will gain access to a section that hasn’t been logged since the mid 1950’s.

The National Association of Soil Conservation Districts has held several listen session meetings in the west to find out what can be done on private lands to improve forest health and reduce fire risk.  The outcome was to change the cost share on EQIP to encourage more participation I the program.   

John Meyers, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, reported:

  • Donna Batch was appointed as the new Regional Administrator.
  • Fair Housing Trainings:
    • We had 571 participate in the two days of training (April 5-6) in Boise, either in person or online.
    • The next trainings will be in Lewiston and Moscow April 18th, Coeur d’Alene on April 21st and Pocatello on April 26th.
  • Washington – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last month announced that nearly $174 million will soon be made available through first-ever allocations of the National Housing Trust Fund.  HUD secretary Julian Castro made announcement to a gathering of the National Low-Income Housing coalition meeting in Washington. 
    • The HTF was established under Title 1 of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Section 1338 of the Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992.
    • HTF is a formula grant program, which is to be administered by States.  A State may choose to administer its own program or designate a state-designated entity to administer the HTF funds on its behalf.
    • HTF funds may be used for the production or preservation of affordable housing through the acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation of non-luxury housing with suitable amenities.  All HTF-assisted rental housing must meet a 30 year affordability period.  All HTF assisted homeownership housing must meet the minimum affordability period of 10, 20, or 30 years based on the amount of HTF investment in the unit. 

Kari Kostka, Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, reported:

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) welcomed our new director, former Senator John Tippets, in July 2015. The agency has been busy with several large initiatives, including continued work toward achieving primacy for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program. Idaho is one of only four states where the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to implement the NPDES Program which regulates facilities that discharge from a point source into surface waters. DEQ is on schedule to submit an application for primacy by the September 2016 deadline set by the legislature. To apply for primacy, DEQ must first have in place the rules, guidance, staff, and other resources and agreements necessary to take-over the program from EPA. As such, DEQ presented three pieces of Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) legislation as well as several rules during the 2016 legislative session—all of which passed.

DEQ received approval for nine rules in total. These included IPDES, annual updates to air quality and hazardous waste rules incorporated by reference, and DEQ’s negotiated rule addressing regional fish consumption and Idaho’s human health criteria. All six pieces of legislation introduced by DEQ also passed, including three IPDES bills, one bill addressing prioritization of Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) report development for degraded water bodies, a bill allowing DEQ to invest certain funds with the Endowment Fund Investment Board rather than the Idaho State Treasurer’s Office, and a bill granting DEQ authority to assess fees for underground storage tanks (UST) to augment decreasing federal funding.

DEQ is now conducting a negotiated rulemaking to address revised federal UST rules and to determine a fee schedule given the new authority. The first rulemaking meeting is scheduled for April 28, 2016. DEQ has also been conducting negotiated rulemakings for individual/subsurface sewage disposal rules. If interested in any of DEQ’s rulemakings, information is available on our website: http://www.deq.idaho.gov/laws-rules-etc/deq-rulemakings/.

Bryan Ricker, the Office of Senator Crapo, reported:

Since October 2014 Senator Crapo has held 167 town hall meetings and plans to go to all 200 incorporated towns in Idaho.  During those meetings we hear a lot of concerns.  Sometimes they are concerns that we believe an agency or entity in Idaho can assist them with we try to put them in touch and see what solutions can be found.  Our goal is to make sure that cities, counties, or individuals in need of assistance connect with the right organization that can help them.

Shannon Madsen, Boise District, Small Business Administration, reported:

The Boise District SBA office is celebrating national Small Business Week the first week of May.  This year they will be awarding Enrique Contrares and Ana Paz who own Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant in Kuna as Idaho’s Small Business of the year.  SBA will also be conducting Small Business Week events throughout the state to honor local entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Loan volumes throughout the District are slightly lower than this time last year but loan dollars are up.   The office continues to market their services- Capital, Contracting, and Counseling- throughout the state and encourages communities to contact the Boise office for any small business needs.

Polly Hoyt, USDA – Farm Service Agency, reported:

Idaho FSA has 135 employees at this time.  We are located in 29 counties.  In order for any offices to be closed, it takes authorizations from the appropriations committees. 

The Agriculture Act of 2014 better known as “The Farm Bill” was signed into law on February 7, 2014.  The goal of this farm bill is to allow the men and women who feed millions around the world to invest confidently in the future. 

Some of the major changes in the farm bill are the direct, counter cyclical and actual crop revenue election payments are eliminated. There are increased loan opportunities, and increased reliance on crop insurance.   FSA recognizes the potential of new and expanding markets for the agriculture industry, such as organic crops, which are taking a big role.   

The Farm bill includes Livestock programs, Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance (NAP), Dairy programs, ARC/PLC Revenue protection, Conservation programs, and Farm Loans. 

Included in “Livestock programs” are the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP), Livestock Forage Disaster Program (LFP), and Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP), all put in place to help the producer when a disaster happens. 

The Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance (NAP) program insures those crops that an insurance company will not insure.  Now a producer can buy even more coverage than before – up to 100% of price.  A producer can buy Yield coverage of 50/55/60/65% and basic of 50% yield, 55% price.  There is a $250 admin fee per crop with a maximum premium of $6563 based on your yield.  Underserved, beginning farmer or limited resource producers are eligible for the administrative fee waiver.

The Dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) is risk management against falling margins and “Catastrophic coverage” at no cost.  The annual administrative fee is $100. 

ARC/PLC or Agriculture Rick Coverage/Price Loss Coverage is the “Safety Net”.  It’s no longer a revenue guarantee, it’s a revenue protection!  This program gave owners a one-time opportunity to update their yields based on yield history and reallocate their base.  Producers chose between the two programs for the life of the farm bill. 

In the Conservation area, we have had one CRP signup (Conservation Reserve Program) recently (results not back), a Grasslands CRP signup (results not back), and an ongoing SAFE (Safe Acres for Wildlife Enhancement) signup of 105,580 acres. 

There is a new loan called the Microloan.  The limit just increased to $50,000.  It is a streamlined process.  It can be used for annual operating or term operating expenses and in 2016 it can now be used for farm ownership!  It’s excellent for start-up operations.  The Farm Storage Facility loan continues to expand.  It‘s funding is used to build or upgrade farm storage and handling facilities.  No credit test required. 

FSA has many different kinds of loans to offer.  The state office has set goals for 2016 for different loans.  I will share a few. 

Microloans made to date: 

2016 goal is 130.  As of March 31, Idaho has made 66. 

Direct Loan Delinquency Rate.  (This is the percentage of loans that are bad):

2016 goal is 8.5.  We are 2.5%. 

Direct Processing Time (Time to get loan together): 

Goal is 30.  March 31 actual is 24.5 days

 

Erik Kingston, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, reported:

  • IHFA is in the middle of preparing their 2016 housing analysis impediments for funding with HUD and the Department of Commerce.
     
  • They have finished their housing roundtables around the state. From these roundtables they will use the information to find out if there are barriers for home buyers or renters. The end product will help planners and policy makers support housing choice, which in turn affects our access to quality healthcare, education, shopping and other essential resources. 
     
  •  The Point In Time Count that occurred statewide one night in late January revealed 469 unsheltered folks and 1,497 sheltered. Total affordable housing units which includes low in come vouchers is 28,739.  The total number of households in poverty is 107,808. This shows quite a large gap between the two; statewide, we need approximately 80,000 units of housing within reach of the working poor, individuals with disability and retirees.
     
  • Avenues for Hope Housing Challenge fundraiser will provide a $273,398 boost to 29 organizations that provide essential housing services throughout Idaho.
     
  • More than 1,200 individual donors contributed $148,398 through the online fundraiser from Dec. 10 to Dec. 31. The Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) organization created by Idaho Housing and Finance Association (IHFA), along with eight corporate sponsors awarded $125,000 in grants.