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Roundtable Discussions

Darrell Bolz, Caldwell, reported:
Canyon County continues to see a lot of growth, which can be either good or bad depending on your prospective.

Caldwell continues to focus on downtown improvements.  The theatre is coming along well as well as the plaza with both expected to be completed sometime this year.

Ag Forum: The Nampa Chamber of Commerce has sponsored an Ag Forum for each of the past 5 years.  This years the focus on February 6th focused on land use.  The forum title “Agricultural Land – Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow looked at how development and agriculture affect land use.  The purpose of the forum was not to put forth a position, but to get the public to think about how development was affecting agriculture, Idaho’s leading industry.  Boise State University did a study of the potential growth in the valley recently and presented some of the results of that study.  I am including website of the study. 


Jerry Miller, Idaho Department of Commerce, reported:
Opportunity Zone

Low income Census tracts designated by Gov Otter to participate in the Opportunity Zone program

  • ID’s quota from the Feds was 28 tracts
  • Commerce set up an application process we received 59 applications from 22 entities
  • Investments in these tracts get tax benefits: deferral and reduction of capital gains
  • Some tracts cover neighborhoods others cover towns or counties
  • https://commerce.idaho.gov/communities/opportunity-zones/

Rural ED Pro Application

  • Funds to help rural counties hire paid economic development professionals.
  • 19 programs covering 28 counties
  • Grant Range $10k-32k. Required minimum match $ 18K
  • Deadline May 15th

 Northwest Community Development Institute

  • July 9-13
  • Partnership with Business Oregon
  • Leadership, skills and community and economic development training
  • Registration Open real soon.

Idaho Economic Development Association – Spring Conference April 24-26 Burley https://www.iedassociation.com

Shirley Biladeau, Idaho Commission for Libraries, reported:
The Idaho Commission for Libraries continues to work with library staff raising awareness of technology, literacy, and other types of community programming.  In reaching out to partners, the Commission connects a variety of groups and agencies with local libraries for resources and programming in workforce development, economic development, and lifelong learning.  The Twin Falls Mayor has recently stated that the public library has not been fully utilized for its resources in extended learning.  And that during the process of implementing their 2030 Vision Plan, the library will be playing a key role in extended learning for all ages.  The Idaho Commission for Libraries has hosted several library sponsored community conversations in communities across the Treasure Valley.  This action has helped spark awareness of the resources at the library and that the public library makes an ideal partner in building a health community.  We are also working with the Idaho Community Foundation to be key supporters of their community conversations.   Broadband service for communities continues to be a library focus.  As always ICfL resources support Idaho libraries and can be found at http://libraries.idaho.gov and at http://lili.org.

 Polly Hoyt, USDA – Farm Service Agency, reported:
There is a lot going on at FSA right now and appreciates the ability to have Vickie send their reminders and information via email blasts on Thursdays.  She will try to keep everyone up to date.  She appreciated John, Tim, Barbara, and Art coming to meet with Evan, Layne, and herself.  It was the first time an IRP executive director has done that and it was very informative to them.

Cyndi Graff, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | Region 10, reported:
EPA Budget Update with Water/Wastewater Infrastructure Focus

  • Last month, Congress signed the FFY2018 omnibus bill.  Total EPA funding is about $8.824 Billion, last year the Agency funding was about $8.18 Billion.  The increase included $766 Million separately provided for infrastructure investments. State allotments are not final yet, but we estimate Idaho receiving about $11 Million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DW SRF) and about $17 Million for the Clean Water SRF.  This is about a $3 Million increase for each program.
  • WIFIA:  The Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act program (WIFIA) received $63 million for its second round of funding, compared to last year’s $25 million “pilot.”  This program is designed to partner with the SRF program.  Because WIFIA is a credit guarantee program, that $63 million can generate approximately $5.5 billion in WIFIA loans. 
  • DW Needs Survey: On March 30th, EPA delivered the 2015 Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey (DWINSA) and Assessment to Congress. The 2015 DWINSA is the sixth since 1995 and estimates an investment need of $472.6 billion in the nation’s drinking water infrastructure over the next 20 years -- a 10.3% increase, in constant dollars, over the estimated need of the 2011 DWINSA. Congress often uses this information when determining the infrastructure funding amounts.

    Bunker Hill Mine Settlement in Coeur d’Alene Basin
  • In March, EPA and the Bunker Hill Mine (Mine) reached a settlement regarding cleanup liability as well as removing the barrier for new operations at the Mine.
  • The Mine will pay $20M to the federal government to reimburse past cleanup costs.  It will also pay about $1M annually to treat future discharges from the Mine, which releases about 1,300 gallons per minute of water polluted with heavy metals.
  • After about three decades of litigation, the settlement allows the Bunker Hill Mine to make a fresh start. The CEO mentioned recently in the Spokesman News (3/12/18) that the mine could reopen on a limited basis by the end of the year and large-scale production could be possible in about two years. According to the article, the Mine will employ about 300 people once fully operational.

     Ballard Mine Superfund Site and Proposed Plan in SE Idaho Phosphate Mining Area

  • On April 11th, EPA will hold a public hearing in Soda Springs regarding the proposed plan to cleanup the Ballard Mine Superfund site, a historic open-pit phosphate mine that’s part of the phosphate patch in southeast Idaho. Selenium and other pollutants release from the mine’s waste rock dumps and contaminate nearby soil, water, and vegetation.
  • Ballard is the first of more than a dozen phosphate mine sites in southeast Idaho to reach this point in the Superfund cleanup process.  Many more will follow in the next couple of years.
  • After considering public input, EPA anticipates issuing later this year a Record of Decision that selects the final cleanup methods.
  • The proposed plan uses a combination of different cleanup methods and technologies as well as the option for the mine owner (P4/Monsanto) to potentially recover about 4 million tons of phosphate ore. The ore recovery option is part of recent recommendations for the Superfund program related to re-mining.  This particular re-mining activity would be under BLM mineral leasing and permitting requirements.  Re-mining/ore recovery in addition to cleanup is unique.

Art Beal, Idaho RC&D Association, reported:
The Idaho RC&D Association is working with the Natural Resource Conservation Services on pass through monies for conservation districts to augment the hours that district personnel do work that specifically helps the NRCS do their work.  One would think it would be easy but everyone who handles the funds wants to piece of the monies.  The intent is to help the RC&D’s financially as well as the conservation districts.

The Boise Forest Coalition has reviewed a proposed project on the west side of Cascade Lake where fuels reduction is to take place along with timber harvest.  The area is part of the governor’s designated high risk areas and a wild land urban interface several miles long with lots of recreation use. 

The US Forest Service is anticipating an opportunity for designating further high risk areas.  The coalition suggested looking at areas involving urban interface and high recreation use, not to consider roadless areas. 

Expect fuel reduction in the Bogus Basin area and logging activity through Boise in the near future.

There is still some timber removal in the Pioneer Fire Cleanup.  It should be completed by mid-year.

The Ag Summit this year talked about transportation of Idaho goods to market.  The summit talked about issues of getting product to the world market.  One being the electronic log on vehicles.  Any delay costs a lot of added expense not to mention the condition of the roads.  There was also discussion on how the removal of dams would affect the port of Lewiston.  The barges deliver over 50 truckloads at a time. 

The Coordinated Weed Program through the Idaho State Department of Agriculture is doing well.  It is being sponsored by RC&D’s and Soil Conservation Districts.

Shannon Madsen, Small Business Administration, reported:
Shannon introduced Gary Eisenbraun, the new Small Business Administration District Director.  Her agency has been focusing on small business loans in rural areas.  With the information she obtains participating in community reviews, she can take back to her agency to assist in better serving small businesses in rural areas.  The Boise office helps small businesses succeed by aiding, counseling and assisting small business owners through the efforts of SBA and its resource partners. In conjunction with their partners they provide service in primarily three areas: financial assistance, management assistance and procurement assistance.  The office delivers SBA programs in 34 counties in southern Idaho and six counties in eastern Oregon.  Over the years, the SBA has developed many small business loan and assistance programs, special outreach efforts and initiatives to aid and inform small businesses.

Carleen Herring, Region IV Development, reported:
RIVDA has two items that will have an impact on rural Idaho.  The first one regards Statewide CEDS with a meeting later this month.  This meeting will flesh out particulars on how the economic development districts are going to gather the data and how that information will be combined from the communities around the state.  The other item is with the Idaho Rural Water Association and their new location.  Currently they are located in an old building that does not provide adequate space for their training activities.  With the help of the USDA and the Economic Development Administration, a new $2.2 million facility which includes office and a wet lab will be built.  Many small communities share licensed circuit operators for their water and wastewater systems because of the cost and the limited number of them.  The limited number is from retirement and the lack of a training facility.  IRWA has worked with the Department of Labor and will have a registered two year apprentice program.  This will help rural communities have well trained water resource operators. 

Brian Dale, US Housing and Urban Development, reported:
The free Idaho Fair Housing Workshop is April 26th at City Hall.  Idaho is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.  Consumers, housing providers, managers, realtors, lenders, housing advocates, government personnel and officials—anyone interested in learning about:

  • Fair Housing Act
  • Support Animals
  • Reasonable Accommodations
  • Limited English Proficiency Compliance
  • Best Practices for addressing Harassment and Hate
  • Criminal Background
  • Affordable Housing/NIMBYism
  • Occupancy Polices
  • Rules Regarding Children
  • Affirmative Marketing

Learn about your rights and obligations, obtain helpful fair housing materials and resources, and avoid costly litigation! Presenters include Intermountain Fair Housing Council, Housing Provider Attorney David Penny and other community presenters.

Ken Frederick, Bureau of Land Management, reported:
Tim Murphy retired from BLM in January and Peter Ditton, took over as acting State Director.  BLM is putting a lot of effort into sustaining healthy rangelands.  Wildland fire is the gravest threat to healthy, working rangelands.  Currently, nine Rangeland Fire Protection Associations (RFPAs) have been chartered and are working in Idaho.  RFPAs are partnerships among the Idaho Department of Lands; the BLM; and the farmers, ranchers and permittees who work on the land.  RFPA members get the same basic firefighting training, equipment and radio communications as a federal firefighter.  With this capability, they can respond to and take suppression action of fire starts independently--in many cases arriving at fires before BLM engines do.  The BLM is also using “target grazing” to help create and maintain fuel breaks--strips of ground containing fuel levels significantly lower than the rest of the ecosystem.  Fuel breaks usually slow and sometimes stop fires, and they give firefighters a leg up in fighting rangeland fires.  The BLM was founded on the basis of multiple-use.  This concept means that uses like recreation, grazing, and energy and mineral development can occur in harmony with the tools and techniques of natural resource stewardship and sustainability.

Brian Ness, Idaho Transportation Department, reported:
Kim McGourty will be his appointed alternate for IRP board meetings in his absence.

Kim McGourty, Idaho Transportation Department, reported:  
Idaho Department of Transportation wants to be a partner for rural communities.  ITD has presence with six district offices throughout the state.  Their staff is available for IRP to use as a resource for community reviews. 

Donna Pence, Gooding, reported:
Twin Falls has started a city club named City Club of Southern Idaho.  They have had two meetings with the most current one Monday.  The topic was immigration and the impact on the Magic Valley.  It was a sold out crowd as they brought speakers from all around the state.   

Representative Sally Toone, Idaho State Legislature, reported:
Jerome and Gooding Counties are the two top producing dairy counties in Idaho and with that brings immigration challenges.  Not only are there challenges for immigration but also water issues.  The University of Idaho is looking at building a research station in the area.  Representative Toone introduced in the House Education Committee the Idaho Rural Teacher Forgiveness Loan Bill in the legislature this session.  It would recruit teachers to Idaho’s rural districts by giving some loan forgiveness if they would teach in a rural district.  It made it out of committee but didn’t pass on the floor.  She will amend it and return it next session.  She also sits on the House Agricultural Committee where lots of issues came through this year.  Representative Toone is on the state task force for commercial vehicle registration and is hoping to have a recommendation on a commercial issue next session as rural areas move their products that way.  Fairfield tourism has been moved to Magic Valley Travel Center.  This will up the tourism in that rural area. 

Jess Harrison, Association of Idaho Cities, reported:  
Jess started with the Cities late November coming from the School Board Association.  Events that are coming up for the Association of Idaho Cities include spring district meetings around the state at the end of this month which will be updating folks about the legislative session and doing some budget training.  The AIOC annual conference will be June 20-22 at the Boise Center.  Looking forward they are planning some fall meetings regarding water and wastewater targeting rural communities. 

Barbara Petty, University of Idaho – Extension, reported:
University of Idaho Extension is alive and well!  During the past year we had over 405,000 direct face-to-face contacts, over 500,000 web sessions and 76,000 youth participating in our 4-H youth development program.  Melissa Hamilton, Extension educator in Valley County partnered with the Apparel, Textiles and Design students in the UI School of Family and Consumer Sciences to design scarves and bandanas to educate about noxious weeds in Valley County.  During the wars, first aid instructions were printed on bandanas for our soldiers so Melissa used the same idea to help people identify weeds.  This past year the UI Potato Conference celebrated its 50th year and our Extension educators were recognized for their contribution to the conference by providing all day workshops in Spanish during the past 17 years. Another way UI Extension is reaching new audiences is through online courses.  An entrepreneur class delivered in both English and Spanish has 150 people enrolled.  It is a great day to be a part of University of Idaho Extension.

Gary Eisenbraun, Small Business Administration, reported:
He is the new director for the small business administration and new to the Boise area.    

The SBA is targeting small businesses in rural areas.  The three biggest things that effect small businesses are regulations, taxes, and healthcare.  Those three things are what the administration is addressing.  Over 95% of employees work for small businesses.  The majority of businesses in Idaho are small businesses and many of them are located in rural Idaho.  The Secretary of Agriculture and the SBA Administration signed over a memorandum of agreement to work and focus on rural America.  This is still a rural country with 90% of the area classified as rural.           

Tim Solomon, Rocky Mountain Power, reported:
The utilities struggle for transmission line locations in rural and urban areas.  The U.S. Department of the Interior’s approval for the two final segments of the Gateway West project proposed a decade ago by Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power got the green light.  Approval of the Idaho segments was delayed by landowners who did not want transmission lines on their property and environmentalists who did not want lines in the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation area.  A change in the boundary of the conservation area allowed the transmission lines to go through.  It took 12 years to get to this point.  Currently in Eastern Idaho there is 60 miles of transmission line being worked on.  Rocky Mountain Power has built a new substation in Rexburg.

Jess Byrne, Department of Environmental Quality, reported:
DEQ is anticipating approval of our Idaho Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (IPDES) program by July 1 of this year. This is a major milestone for the state as we seek to issue permits for Idaho’s surface water discharges in lieu of the Environmental Protection Agency. The first phase of implementation will be municipal permits (2018), followed by industrial permits (2019), general permits (2020), and storm water permits (2021). The total program will consist of 29 employees and a $3.1 million budget.

Idaho has the opportunity to receive $17.3 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. These funds must be used to reduce air pollution, specifically nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. DEQ is the lead agency for Idaho in administering these funds. We anticipate we will begin accepting applications this summer for proposals to replace diesel emission sources with cleaner technology to reduce NOx emission. More information can be found at http://www.deq.idaho.gov/air-quality/vw-diesel-settlement/.

In the 2017 session, the Idaho Legislature appropriated an ongoing $500,000 from the general fund to the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to implement agricultural best management practices (BMPs) in high-priority watersheds throughout Idaho. This year, the legislature appropriated an additional one-time $290,000. These funds can be used for certain nonpoint source water quality projects that will improve water quality and help meet the objectives of state water quality improvement plans (a.k.a. TMDLs).

Harty and Marjorie Schmaehl, Idaho Development, reported:
Kamiah was unable to build a new hospital because of Obama care limitations but an expansion was done on the existing building.  There will be lost property tax revenue for the city because of the homes that were demolished for the expansion.  There is a new broadband provider in the area called Air Bridge Broadband.  Two out of the four mills in the valley have closed resulting in the loss of 60 jobs.  Thirty to forty jobs alone were lost in Kooskia.  The Schmaehls have donated a rental house to be used as a life skills center and pregnancy center.  The real estate business is doing well as prices aren’t going through the roof.  They are trying to triple the numbers of rooms at their lodge.  They will find out this week if it is approved.  It will employ construction workers for about a year and then workers inside the lodge. 

Daryl Moser, USDA – Rural Development, reported:  
Daryl thanked the IRP Board Committee for meeting with Layne Bangerter, Idaho Rural Development State Director, and getting him up to date with IRP and our functions.  Layne is looking forward to participating as an IRP Board Member, with Daryl representing Rural Development on the Board when Layne is not able to make the meetings.  Joe Bradley is the USDA, Rural Development, Broadband/Telecommunications Program Field Representative; Joe has joined the IRP Broadband Task Force, and will be a great asset to that group.  Joe was unable to call in today, so asked Daryl to pass on the following information about three of their broadband programs for which they are accepting applications.  (1) The Community Connect Grant Program is accepting applications until May 14th.  This program helps fund broadband deployment into eligible rural areas where it is not yet economically viable for private sector providers to deliver service.  (2) The Distance Learning & Telemedicine Grant program is accepting applications until June 4.  This program helps rural communities use the unique capabilities of telecommunications to connect to each other and to the world.  (3) The Rural Broadband Access Loan and Loan Guarantee program is accepting applications until September 30.   This programs furnishes loans and loan guarantees to provide funds for the costs of construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide service at the broadband lending speed in eligible rural areas.  In addition to these Broadband programs, the recent passage of the 2018 Omnibus Budget has provided significant additional funding for other Rural Development programs, including: (1) Community Facilities program.  Through this program, Rural Development provides loans and loan guarantees for essential community facilities for rural communities.  Eligible applicants are public bodies, non-profit organizations, and Indian tribes.  Funds can be used to build facilities and purchase equipment for fire and rescue, police stations, health clinics, schools, libraries, and hospitals; and, (2) Water & Waste Disposal program.  Through this program, Rural Development provides loans and grants for water and wastewater infrastructure projects in rural areas.  Eligible applicants include public entities, Indian tribes, and non-profit corporations. Funds can be used to construct, repair, modify, expand, improve water supply and distribution systems, and waste collection and treatment systems.  In their Business Programs, Rural Development is accepting applications in the Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) through April 30. Through this program, Rural Development provides support for energy efficiency and renewable energy systems in rural areas.  Eligible applicants include agricultural producers and rural small businesses.       

Richard Berndt, Economic Development Administration, reported via conference call:    
EDA is awarding $587 million for disaster recovery grants in communities experiencing distress or other economic harm from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and wildfires and other federally declared natural disasters occurring in calendar year 2017. Twenty six counties in Idaho qualify. The Seattle Region, which includes Idaho, is allocated $93.8 million. Applicants must show a nexus between their proposed project scope of work and disaster recovery and resilience efforts, and be consistent with at least one of the Disaster Recovery Investment Priorities.  These grants do require matching funds; however, eligible areas can qualify for up to an 80% grant rate.  EDA is accepting grant applications for construction and non-construction projects.  There is more information at EDA’s website, www.eda.gov, or you can contact Richard directly at 206-220-7682 or RBerndt@eda.gov

Erik Kingston, Idaho Housing and Finance Association, reported:
The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (which creates tens of thousands of units of housing annually for Americans earning up to $20/hour), survived last year’s final budget negotiations. However, changes in the tax code will result in a net loss of up to 250,000 units built over the next decade at a time when demand is increasing. At the local level, a collaborative partnership among IHFA, the City of Boise, St. Lukes, St Als, and Ada County has led to New Path Community Housing, based on the successful a ‘housing first’ approach to housing chronically homeless individuals.  Another low-cost housing development has started down the street at Fairview and 24th Street; contact Connie Hogland with Northwest Integrity Housing for more details. The IHFA sponsored rental locator website www.housingidaho.com has been redesigned and expanded to include a blog featuring news and events. A new “coordinated entry” system was launched in early 2018 to create a single point of contact for each region showing resources available to assist with homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing, provide better coordination and reduce duplication of services. Erik reminded everyone to check out the Idaho Community Review Facebook page to be alerted to community and economic news impacting rural Idaho.

Stephanie Cook, Idaho National Laboratory, reported:
Leading the way in securing our nation’s energy future, Idaho National Laboratory, together with the Idaho State Board of Education, is breaking ground on two new research facilities: the Cybercore Integration Center and the Collaborative Computing Center (C3).

On Wednesday, April 11, key stakeholders and elected officials celebrated the beginning of a strategic partnership to advance research and educational collaboration in Idaho.

“Supporting this collaboration is about much more than new facilities; we are investing in Idaho’s future,” Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said. “The Lab is a major employer in its own right and has a global reputation that benefits many other Idaho businesses. But in addition to the INL’s continuing economic importance, this partnership provides Idaho universities with an important edge in preparing tomorrow’s world leaders in cybersecurity and nuclear energy research.”

Cybercore Integration Center will host advanced electronics labs for industry, government and academia to work together to systematically engineer cyber and physical security innovations to protect the nation’s most critical infrastructure, like the power grid.

The Collaborative Computing Center will provide a modern computing environment, hosting research collaborations and opportunities that would otherwise not be possible – a place where INL researchers, Idaho universities, and industry will explore computer modeling and simulation to develop new nuclear materials, advance nuclear energy concepts and conduct a broad span of scientific research.

“We are working with Idaho’s universities to strengthen partnerships, for example, by tailoring internships for students seeking advanced degrees in nuclear engineering, mechanical engineering, materials science, chemical engineering and computer science,” INL Director Mark Peters said. “Students are the talent of the future, and we want to invest in their success. By offering these career-enhancing opportunities, everyone wins.”

Idaho State Board of Education will retain the economic benefit that will be created by the financing, construction, and operation of these facilities. This endeavor enables educational opportunities, globally significant research, and economic opportunity. Off-site computer users, such as students and faculty at Idaho’s universities and colleges, will also have remote access to the high-performance computing systems in the Collaborative Computing Center through the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON).

“We are positioned for the future. This is an exceptional example of a public/private partnership working to advance the educational offerings across the entire state,” said Dr. Linda Clark, president of the Idaho State Board of Education. “We are excited about the opportunities this provides for all of Idaho’s institutions of higher learning.”

INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.