PILT payments included in farm bill
WASHINGTON (AP)—The farm bill that has cleared the House includes a one-year extension of a federal program that compensates rural counties for federal lands they can’t tax. About 1,900 local governments — mostly in the West — received a total of $400 million last year under the program, known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILT.
More than three-quarters of the money went to 12 Western states, with the largest shares going to California, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
Lawmakers in the West had howled after the program was omitted from a budget deal approved this month. Rural communities—including several in Idaho—rely on it for basic services such as police and fire protection and road maintenance.
The House approved the farm bill on a 251-166 vote. The Senate is next.
Idaho Power launches new plan in valley
Idaho Power Co. is launching a collaborative effort in the Wood River Valley to explore the opportunities and challenges of using renewable resources to help serve the area.
Director of Operations Strategy Karl Bokenkamp and public relations representative Dan Olmstead on Jan. 15 met with mayors of Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and Bellevue to begin forming a working group. That group will meet monthly this spring and summer to share their interest and ideas in renewable energy, learn about the valley’s energy needs, and potentially propose a renewable development that could be tested through a pilot project.
Bokenkamp said Idaho Power is meeting with community leaders to identify participants for the working group, and expects to conduct a series of facilitated meetings over the next several months. The group will rely on Idaho Power’s own experts as part of the collaborative effort, as well as potentially drawing on the expertise of other recognized independent experts such as the Idaho National Lab, state universities, other utilities, interest groups and non-governmental organizations.
Bokenkamp expects the working group to have its initial meeting in February.
Sun Valley to unveil new fire truck
The city of Sun Valley will unveil its new ladder fire truck at noon today, Jan. 31, at the Elkhorn Fire Station, at 100 Arrowleaf Road.
During the ceremony, Fire Department officials will demonstrate the operations and safety features of the truck. Both the old ladder truck used by the city and the new one will be on site to showcase the quality of the new model.
Sun Valley Fire Chief Ray Franco said the truck will serve the city well.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have this new state-of-the-art piece of equipment,” Franco said. “All the built-in safety features that come with the truck are great.”
As of now, only Sun Valley is on the lease for the truck, but Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe said the lease allows for Ketchum to be added if its city leaders want to do so.
Chinook salmon forecast looks good
If the Chinook salmon returns for 2014 hold up to the early forecast, anglers could anticipate fisheries similar to those opened in 2008 and 2009, the Department of Fish and Game reported this week. In those years, fisheries were opened in the Clearwater, Snake, lower Salmon, Little Salmon, South Fork Salmon and upper Salmon rivers.
“The forecast suggests a return that’s larger than last year,” Idaho Fish and Game Anadromous Fish Manager Pete Hassemer told the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Jan. 16.
Northwest fish managers estimate that more than 227,000 spring Chinook salmon bound for waters upstream of Bonneville Dam will enter the Columbia River this year. Last year, the actual return was about 123,000.
Of those fish predicted at the Columbia River mouth, 83,000 hatchery fish and 42,000 wild fish are predicted to be headed for the Snake River. Last year’s actual return to the Columbia River mouth was 45,400 hatchery and 21,900 wild fish destined for the Snake River.
Idaho fish managers estimate that 39,900 hatchery fish destined for Idaho’s Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers will cross Lower Granite Dam. Last year, only about 25,500 hatchery spring and summer Chinook salmon returned to the same Idaho waters.
Idaho fisheries managers expect to present proposed Chinook fishing seasons in the Clearwater, Snake, lower Salmon and Little Salmon rivers to the Fish and Game Commission in March. In years past, Chinook seasons have opened in late April.