Environment

Dan Brubaker Horst / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials have extended the deadline for farmers to dispose of spoiled or damaged onions following the collapse of many onion storage facilities in southwestern Idaho due to heavy snow.

The Idaho State Department of Agriculture announced Wednesday that the March 15 deadline has been extended to April 15.

Agriculture Director Celia Gould says the temporary rule will give onion farmers some flexibility in dealing with the massive disposal effort. She says many facilities are reporting total losses.

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.

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