Environment

courtesy Snake River Alliance

Idaho’s first commercial solar power project won’t be operational this month as predicted. But one of the companies involved in the project says it should come online by the end of May.

The state’s first solar power farm is on about 500 acres just southwest of Boise. When the project, known as Boise City Solar, is finished it will produce enough megawatts to power 29,000 homes during good solar exposure. That’s more homes than a city the size of Idaho Falls.

Who owns it?

City of Boise

On Sunday evening, hot water poured on to the intersection of Grove and 3rd streets in downtown Boise. Steam filled the air as a leak from the city's underground geothermal line brought attention to a system not many people know much about.

screengrab / National Geographic Channel

Mud baths aren't just for spa-loving humans.

A National Geographic video captured both grizzlies and black bears submerging in what's referred to as a "bear bathtub" in Yellowstone National Park. The natural swimming hole serves as a place for the bears to cool off, take a drink and get squeaky clean.

Cameras placed around the hole recorded the action, giving insight into the iconic predators' behavior.

Penn State / Flickr Creative Commons

A recent audit found significant problems with the federally-managed nuclear waste treatment plant west of Idaho Falls.

The Post Register reports the audit outlined cost overruns, a lack of rigorous testing and other management issues at the Department of Energy facility known as the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit.

The DOE Office of the Inspector General's report says the project's construction costs have exceeded the $571 million cap set in 2010 and will likely continue to accrue.

Jeff Smith / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal authorities are considering reversing an 80-year-old decision and designating the Salmon River as navigable.

The Lewiston Tribune reports the proposed change would add to the list of regulated activities on the river.

People currently need a Clean Water Act permit to use the river when discharging dredge or fill material.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Brig. Gen. Scott A. Spellmon is expected to make a decision on the change in May.

Dave Thomas / Flickr Creative Commons

After the deadly white-nose syndrome was found in a bat in the state of Washington, Idaho is stepping up protections against the fungus.

Idaho Fish and Game says it’s working to prevent the fungus from coming here, while at the same time, making preparations in case it does show up, like creating an inter-agency response plan for Idaho.

The Department says there are 14 bat species living in the state. At least half hibernate here. White-nose syndrome is known to kill hibernating bats.

Twitter / U.S. Geological Survey Idaho

Despite last year's prediction that El Nino would bring warmer and drier weather to Idaho, the mountain snowpack is filling up reservoirs and swelling rivers around the state. The U.S. Geological Survey in Idaho (USGS) is keeping track of the latter, measuring rivers in different regions of the Gem State. 

In the Treasure Valley, water managers released more water from Lucky Peak Dam last week. As a result, the Boise River jumped to 5,770 cubic feet per second (cfs) Tuesday morning.

Nicholas D. / Flickr

In 50 years, the Treasure Valley will need three times the water it currently uses. That’s according to a new study commissioned by the Idaho Water Resource Board.

The board is looking at how to meet current and future water needs in the valley.

Brian Patton is chief of the board’s Planning Bureau. He says the population is likely to grow from 600,000 people to 1.57 million, and all those people will need more water.

gray wolf, wolves
U.S. Fish & Wildlife

According to Idaho Fish and Game biologists, 786 wolves roamed the state in 2015. That compares to 770 the year before. The agency calls the dispersal of the animals a success, and points out the numbers remain above the minimum required by the state and federal government.

 

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

A good year of snow and cold weather in the mountains has given water managers throughout the state some much-needed good news. Right now, the threat of drought seems distant. 

 

Lauren Parker and John Abatzoglou / University of Idaho

You can’t grow oranges in Idaho because the winters are too cold. To get slightly more technical it’s the wrong cold-hardiness zone for citrus. Scientists have known for some time that those zones will shift with climate change. Now a new study from University of Idaho researchers predicts bigger shifts than previously thought and that could mean big changes in what crops are grown in which parts of the country.

Bureau of Land Management

The Gateway West Power Line is one step closer to becoming a reality. Friday the Bureau of Land Management released a research document called a draft supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, for the last two segments of the transmission line.

Boise River
Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

The morning of February 4, 2015, Boiseans woke up to a river with almost no water in it. After making some calls, KBSX reporter Frankie Barnhill learned the Barber Dam was to blame. An overnight power outage tripped the 100-year-old hydroplant offline, causing the river to back up behind it for hours. Barnhill contacted the company that leases the Barber Dam from Ada County, asking for an explanation of what happened – and what was being done to fix it. Enel Green Power is an international firm with energy holdings in a number of American cities.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Public lands managers have released an outline for creating a decades-long strategy to combat wildfire-prone invasive weeds considered a main threat to Great Basin sagebrush ecosystems.

The report released Monday by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies says piecemeal efforts must be replaced by landscape-wide strategies stretching across Western states.

Officials say without it there will be declines in sage grouse and other species possibly leading to regulatory actions limiting economic growth.

Tom Royal / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials have released a 10-year draft management plan aimed at reducing the American white pelican population in the state by about half to protect native trout and sport fishing.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game released the 46-page plan Friday and is taking comments through April 2.

Officials say the white pelican population in Idaho in the last 25 years grew from a few hundred to a five-year average of more than 5,600 breeding pelicans. The draft plan calls for reducing that to 2,800.

Charles Peterson / Flickr Creative Commons

Federal wildlife officials plan to take the grizzly bear off the Endangered Species List in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. If the proposal goes through, Idaho will take over management of the bear within the state’s borders. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe says the decision to take the iconic predator off the list comes after decades of collaboration. 

Zoo Boise

Zoo Boise says that one of its two tigers was euthanized this week. Tundra was 18 years old and had been in ill health.

Tundra and his brother Taiga came to Zoo Boise in 1999 from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

The head of Zoo Boise says all of its staff members are sad about Tundra’s passing.

“An entire generation of children in the Treasure Valley grew up seeing him and marveling at his beauty and majesty,” said Steve Burns, Director of Zoo Boise. “He was part of our family and we will miss him.”

Brad Smith / Flickr

Honeybees are dying off at an alarming rate. For several years, scientists have been looking at a number of factors that may be influencing their survival. Now, a University of Idaho scientist has found a working model that may explain why honeybee colonies collapse.

UI professor Brian Dennis built a mathematical model that shows the size of the beehive may be the critical factor in colony collapse disorder. That’s when too many bees in a hive die or disappear and the hive falls apart.

USDA NRCS

Water supply specialist Ron Abramovich has learned never to assume how Idaho’s water forecast will turn out. He works for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and says that variability played out this year with El Nino, especially in the northern part of the state. 

“But lucky for us, the jetstream was split," says Ambramovich. "So we still had moisture coming through the Pacific Northwest into Idaho, and then the desert Southwest also got it, so it really helped Idaho’s snowpack tremendously this winter.” 

Drew Morris

A group that’s critical of a bill making its way through the Idaho legislature rallied on the steps of the Idaho statehouse Monday. Citizens Allied for Integrity and Accountability organized the gathering in response to a Senate committee vote in favor of a bill to speed up oil and gas production. The bill would shorten the time for appeals to new energy applications.

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