Environment

Bureau of Reclamation / WaterArchives.org | Flickr Creative Commons

The recent threat of catastrophic flooding at the Oroville Dam in Northern California has abated for the moment, but the incident dredged up old memories of Idaho's own dam catastrophe.

In June of 1976, the earthen Teton Dam in eastern Idaho failed, killing 11 people and causing $2 billion in damage. It cost $100 million to construct, but the government ended up paying over thrice that in damage claims linked to the failure.

Flooding is continuing to affect communities in southern and eastern Idaho as warm weather melts significant snowpack in lower elevations.

More than a third of Idaho's 44 counties have declared disaster areas, including Bingham and Caribou. Temperatures cooled on Friday and through the weekend, offering some respite from the runoff, but many communities are already dealing with significant flooding and ice jams.

Bear Lake County officials have also considered signing a disaster declaration due to some flooded basements and fields.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Elk and deer continue to struggle this winter and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is adding 27 more feeding sites for the animals.

That brings the number of feed sites around the Southeast Region to 89.

There are 16 elk sites feeding 2,780 animals. There are 71 deer sites, feeding 8,731 of the animals. And two pronghorn sites are getting feed to 215 animals. The sites are in 12 Idaho counties.

John Milner / Flickr Creative Commons

The Sun Valley Resort has shut down Bald Mountain for fear of extreme avalanche danger.

While the resort has received some 50 inches of snow in just the last few days, warmer temperatures plus winds and freezing rain are making for a dangerous mix. With temperatures above 40 degrees, the situation on the mountainside is touch and go.

Once it's deemed safe, Bald Mountain will be reopened.

Penn State / Flickr Creative Commons

Testing is set to resume at a federally-managed nuclear waste treatment plant west of Idaho Falls.

Tests at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit will begin next week after a nine-month pause, The Post Register reported.

The first 10-day test will examine the effectiveness of a grinder that breaks down solid radioactive waste. The component clogged during previous tests.

Paul Moody / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho has so much snow that water is already being released from some reservoirs for flood control and Idaho Power has halted most of its cloud-seeding operations.

"It's just an amazing year," said Ron Abramovich, a water supply specialist with the Natural Resource Conservation Service. "I don't think anybody is talking about shortages this year."

Boise River, snow, weather
Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio

The National Weather Service considers the snow season running from October to May; so far this year, Boise has seen 37.6 inches – significant, but not close to an all-time record.

FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is holding hearings on proposed flood maps in Ada and Canyon County.

FEMA has come up with new maps that change the outline of the 100-year floodplain. That’s the area that has a 1 percent chance of flooding in any year.

The maps are preliminary and include areas along the Boise River, Nine Mile Creek, Mill Slough and Willow Creek. Hundreds of homes in Boise, Garden City, Eagle and Star fall inside the new floodplain districts proposed by FEMA.

Dmitry.S. / Flickr

Idaho is spending about $650,000 this winter to feed elk, deer and antelope at 110 sites around the southern half of the state.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Wednesday said the severe winter prompted officials to declare four feeding emergencies in four regions to start the feeding of about 10,000 elk, 10,000 deer and 100 antelope.

"We know we are in a very significant winter," said Jon Rachael, state wildlife game manager.

Thomas Herbert / AP

Work to clear radioactive waste from the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project is nearly complete.

The Post Register reports that according to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are only 28 nuclear waste boxes left to retrieve at the facility's airplane hangar-like building. Officials expect to finish the job later this month.

Kurt Carpenter / USGS

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality is holding its 27th annual water quality workshop at Boise State this week. Dan Wise is with the U.S. Geological Survey in Oregon, and Wednesday he’s presenting his findings from a regional study on phosphorus in streams.

Here’s a quick high school science refresher: Phosphorus is a chemical element and is essential for life. It’s in chemical fertilizer, as well as in animal and human waste. But there’s a delicate balance – too much phosphorus can cause problems in waterways with too much plant growth.

Spokane Public Radio

The Forest Service has settled a lawsuit with a conservation group and an Idaho Indian tribe that will allow oversized truck loads to resume using a two-lane federal highway through an environmentally-sensitive section of the Idaho Panhandle. But the settlement essentially bans so-called megaloads of oil equipment destined for the oil sands in Alberta.

megaload, transportation
Jessica Robinson / Northwest News Network

Environmental groups, the Nez Perce Tribe and the U.S. Forest Service said Friday that they have reached a settlement in a lawsuit over huge "megaload" shipments on a scenic northwestern Idaho highway by tractor trailers.

The shipments had been on hold since 2013 along a 100-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 12 between Lewiston, Idaho and the Montana border.

Keith Kohl / Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP

Antelope injured while falling on ice. Horses stranded in snowy mountains. Cougars descending from their wilderness lairs to forage in a town.

It's been a beastly winter in the American West, not just for people but for animals too. One storm after another has buried much of the region in snow, and temperatures have often stayed below freezing, endangering a rich diversity of wild animals.

LED Street Lighs / Pinterest

As the city of Moscow replaces streetlights with energy-efficient LED bulbs, some residents are complaining the change is too bright for residential neighborhoods.

The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reports that as traditional high-pressure sodium lights burn out across the city they are being replaced with LED streetlights. Some people say the new bulbs glow too bright.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game

State officials have captured a female mountain lion and her three kittens in a residential area near the eastern Idaho city of Pocatello and relocated them to a more remote spot.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game said Monday that workers with a dog treed the mountain lion kittens weighing from 35 to 50 pounds on Thursday and used catch poles to extricate them from the branches.

Officials say workers treed the adult cougar Friday and used a tranquilizer dart.

Fish and Game says the four mountain lions were reunited and released in a remote area later Friday.

Troy Maben / AP Images

The harsh winter across much of Idaho has caused problems for some big game. Wildlife officials have begun emergency feeding for vulnerable species.

The unusually cold and snowy winter in southern Idaho has forced some animals to lower elevations in search of food. Idaho Fish and Game officials say winter feeding is necessary to help some big game get through the tough season, especially mule deer. The practice also helps deter the wildlife from highways and private property.

US Air Force / Flickr Creative Commons

People flying in and out of Sun Valley have had a difficult time this winter with flights regularly being diverted or canceled due to winter weather conditions.

The chairman of the Friedman Memorial Airport Authority, Ron Fairfax, calls this winter the worst he’s seen in 20 years.

Data from the airport shows 30 flights were diverted between December 4 and December 26. Just two flights were canceled.

Richard Carter / Flickr Creative Commons

While Idaho residents are lamenting heavy snowpack and icy roads, wildlife in the state have been struggling in the backcountry.

Idaho Fish and Game officials told the Post Register that the tough winter will likely mean higher mortality rates for elk and deer that are coping with heavily crusted snowpack.

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management has given the green light to the final federal land section of the Gateway West Transmission Line.

It’s called a Record of Decision, or ROD, and wraps up the federal permission process for the 990-mile power line from Glenrock, Wyoming to Melba, Idaho. The two companies building the line, Idaho Power and Rocky Mountain Power, started working with the BLM on the project in 2007.

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