Environment

Pockafwye / Flickr

Sunday broke some records for high temperatures, but the heat didn’t break Idaho Power’s record for peak demand. That’s even though the company is seeing tremendous demand on the system.

Sunday, the company used 3,292 megawatts of power to keep irrigators pumping and air conditioners on. But spokeswoman Lynette Standley says the system record — set July 2 — 2013, is 3,407 megawatts.

Idaho Power expects to use more power Monday than Sunday. Standley says the projection is over 3,300 megawatts. That compares to an average use of less than 2,000 megawatts.

inl.gov

Scientists say a continued drop in underground water levels could make it harder to monitor the movement of radioactive contamination in an aquifer below an eastern Idaho nuclear facility.

Researchers with the U.S. Geological Survey in a 36-page report released Monday say the Eastern Snake River Plain Aquifer has dropped below two wells and about a dozen more could go dry due to drought.

U.S. Forest Service

Drones are a growing concern for those who fight the nation’s wildfires, and the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) in Boise is again asking those who fly drones to keep them away from fires.

Twice last week, aerial firefights on the San Bernardino National Forest in southern California had to be suspended because of nearby Unmanned Aircraft Systems, or UAS.   

Prairie Dog, wildlife
Matthew Paulson / Flickr Creative Commons

Government attorneys are defending federal protections for Utah prairie dogs after 10 states stepped into the case in favor of a ruling that animal activists say could undermine the Endangered Species Act.

Federal lawyers are asking an appeals court to overturn an unusual ruling striking down prairie dog protections near the Utah town of Cedar City.

Residents say the animals are taking over their town, though animal activists countered Thursday that those concerns are overblown.

sage grouse, wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Flickr Creative Commons

In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to make a decision that many in the West have been anticipating for years. The federal agency will decide whether to list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, a move that many groups in states like Idaho want to avoid.

Kerry Lannert / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho Power sees the highest demand for electricity in the summer when people crank up their air conditioners. And with a long stretch of very hot weather in store, that demand is expected to be very high.

The utility that powers most of southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon set a new record for energy consumption just two years ago in July. Idaho Power spokesman Brad Bowlin says that record could be surpassed soon.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is playing host to nine other Western states' governors and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to try to reach a consensus on regionwide issues such as drought.

Sandoval chairs the Western Governors' Association, which is holding its annual meeting in Lake Tahoe from Wednesday to Friday.

The governors will tackle a number of topics throughout the three days, including a newly released report detailing best practices for states to mitigate the effects of drought.

The U.S. Forest Service has approved a gold mining company's plan to reopen a 4-mile road in a central Idaho wilderness and drill core samples to find out if two of its claims are profitable enough to be mined.

The federal agency in a statement Tuesday says Payette National Forest Supervisor Keith Lannom approved American Independence Mines and Minerals Co.'s plan in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness.

Grizzly, wildlife, grizzlies, endangered species list
Jason Bechtel / Flickr Creative Commons

Twenty-four grizzly bears have been captured so far this year in and around Yellowstone National Park as wildlife managers start another season of research toward a potential lifting of federal protections.

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team captured the grizzlies in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and outside the parks in Montana and Wyoming.

Teams are now starting to trap grizzlies in eastern Idaho.

The estimated grizzly population in the 19,000-square-mile Yellowstone ecosystem is 757 bears.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A coalition of groups and individuals concerned about the health of the Boise River has released an enhancement plan and wants public feedback. The Boise River Enhancement Network (BREN) says the natural resource needs serious help in four areas: water quality, fish habitat, riparian areas and the river channel itself. BREN wants cities, counties, farmers and others who rely on the river to work better together to protect it.

BLM Boise District

Idaho is among 12 states that will share $10 million from the Interior Department, which will be used to keep the threat of wildfire to a minimum in sensitive sage grouse habitat.

Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District

As summer temperatures heat up the Treasure Valley, many homeowners turn to their irrigation district to water their lawn. These districts crisscross  the Valley, but the largest is the Nampa and Meridian Irrigation District (NMID). And NMID says its tax time.

inl.gov

Federal officials say they're taking public comments on a plan to ship two loads of spent nuclear fuel rods to eastern Idaho for research.

The U.S. Department of Energy in a statement says comments will be taken through July 13 on its draft of whether more environmental analysis is needed.

The 60-page document can be viewed at the agency's website under the Idaho Operations Office, Public Involvement Opportunities.

The agency has proposed sending up to 220 pounds of nuclear fuel rods to the Idaho National Laboratory.

CJ Buckwalter / Flickr

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has announced $10 million for land restoration projects in 13 states in a strategy to reduce catastrophic wildfires.

Jewell said Friday that making land more resilient to fire is essential for vulnerable species and for healthy rangelands, forests and watersheds.

Eight of the states are in the West, with projects in conifer forests and sagebrush rangelands, where wildfires have been especially destructive in the last decade. Sagebrush is also habitat for sage grouse, an imperiled bird under consideration for federal protections.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A northern Idaho man who shot and killed a wolf will spend six months on unsupervised probation.

The Coeur d'Alene Press reports 54-year-old Forrest Mize was convicted by a jury Thursday and can petition to remove the crime from his record if he completes his probation without violations.

Mize says he shot the wolf in self-defense. He later decided to keep the pelt, bringing it to a taxidermist and buying a tag.

Defense lawyer Michael Palmer says Mize thought he was killing a coyote.

AgriLife Today / Flickr Creative Commons

The city-owned Oregon Trail Reserve is surrounded by homes. After a fast and hot-burning grassfire killed a woman and destroyed homes there in 2008, the Boise Fire Department began looking at new ways to deal with wildfire. The department used a grant from the Southwest Idaho Resource Conservation and Development Council to start using a different strategy: grazing goats to thin fire-fueling plants. 

Brad Washa / Boise National Forest

Federal officials say a wildland firefighter has died after a physical training exercise.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management says 33-year-old Terry Sonner of Hammett died Wednesday morning after collapsing.

Agency spokeswoman Jessica Gardetto says attempts by crewmembers to revive Sonner failed. The cause of death hasn't been determined.

Sonner began firefighting in 2001 and advanced to become the fire operations supervisor of the Hammett Guard Station Engine Crew in Hammett, about 60 miles southeast of Boise.

A Texas oil company having trouble with mineral rights holders in western Idaho who have refused to sign leases is asking Idaho officials to step in so plans to drill for natural gas or oil can move forward.

Houston-based Alta Mesa Holdings filed applications this week to begin a process called integration. That's a recently revised process the Idaho Oil and Gas Conservation Commission can use when a minority of mineral rights holders decline to take part in developing a potentially profitable oil or gas field.

Andrew W. Sieber / Flickr

Despite one of the worst drought years on record, hydroelectric dams in the Pacific Northwest should not see their operations disrupted too much this summer.

That's what the Northwest Power and Conservation Council was told at a meeting in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Wednesday.

Water through the dams in the Columbia River Basin this summer is projected to be only about 71 percent of average, triggering dry year operation protocols for the dams.

Helen K / Flickr Creative Commons

Heads of federal agencies in charge of fighting wildfires say northern Idaho will have one of the worst fire seasons in the country this year. Arizona, California and Alaska are already experiencing a severe fire season. But much of the rest of the West is currently at low risk because of wet spring weather. However, Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell said in a briefing Tuesday, as the summer progresses, the fire danger zones will shift.  

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