Environment

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

It’s 60 miles across, mostly hidden from view and vital to the economy of Idaho. Much of the time, the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer gets little attention, even from people who rely on it every day. Without it, farmland would disappear and cities from Twin Falls to Rexburg would dry up. As we begin our series on water in Idaho, we take a closer look at the state’s largest “body” of water, hidden underneath the Snake River Plain.

Federal officials have approved the first geothermal project on Idaho's public land since the 1980s.

The Times-News reports that the Burley Bureau of Land Management has given the go-ahead for Walker Ranch Energy's geothermal project, which will include a plant about 13 miles south of Malta.

The power plant will be built on private property, but up to 22 wells will be drilled on 200 acres managed by the Burley BLM office. The operation is expected to eventually produce 25 megawatts of energy.

Boise National Forest

The Pioneer Fire grew dramatically this week, shooting its way through the Boise National Forest. In just two days, it burned more than 70 square miles. So far it has burned 281 square miles.

Despite more than 1,000 people working the fire, it's only 52 percent contained. And officials say it won't be under control until a major rain or snow event, probably sometime in October.

Why is it burning so fast? And so much? And why can't firefighters surround it? This video, from the Boise National Forest, gives a pretty good snapshot of what crews are facing on this megafire:

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

KBSX reporter Frankie Barnhill visited base camp at the Pioneer Fire on Aug. 27 to profile Type 1 Incident Commander Beth Lund. Adam Cotterell asks her about the experience, including what's up with the women's only porta potties, what to eat at fire camp, and how to earn "trail cred" in wildland firefighting.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Beth Lund starts her day long before most people are done dreaming.

At 5 a.m., she’s out of her tent – coffee in hand – getting ready for a 6:00 a.m. briefing with her team at fire camp in Idaho City. Over the hum of generators, Lund takes the microphone on a wooden platform and addresses about 50 firefighters.

“Well, good morning," Lund says. "I see the group out here’s dwindling a little bit. So I think that’s a sign that some of this stuff on the southern end is getting wrapped up.”

Donna / Flickr Creative Commons

Some Idaho farmers are experimenting with a new, potentially lucrative crop: truffles.

The Capital Press reports that there's no clear procedure for growing truffles, which can sell for between $500 and $1,200 a pound. The fungi grow underground in orchards planted with trees that have been inoculated with truffle spores.

The commercial truffle orchard is a new industry, so Idaho farmers like Paul Beckman are planting a variety of trees with different spacing and organization to figure out what works.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

Managers of the Boise National Forest say one small section of their jurisdiction is in crisis. But that small section is the Bogus Basin Resort, which means addressing this crisis is urgent and difficult.

Idaho wants to take over regulating pollution discharge into the state's lakes and rivers from the federal government.

The Idaho Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday submitted an application to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take control of permitting and enforcement aspects under the federal Clean Water Act.

Idaho is one of four states where federal officials regulate pollution discharge into surface waters.

State officials say having Idaho run the program will have local experts better acquainted with Idaho making decisions.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) is encouraging all its members to make a plan to protect pollinating insects and most states are doing that or have already adopted one. Dudley Hoskins with NASDA says the plans are needed because bees face a variety of threats.

James Marvin Phelps / Flickr Creative Commons

The Cherry Road Fire burned about 55 square miles in eastern Oregon, just on the other side of the Idaho border, near Homedale. The wildfire has been contained, but did significant damage to a heavily-used wild horse pasture.

Greg Lilly / Flickr Creative Commons

Idaho officials are devising a statewide plan to protect the health of pollinating insects.

The Capital Press reports that the Idaho State Department of Agriculture is asking agricultural organizations and other interested groups to speak up at a public meeting scheduled for September. The Idaho Potato Commission, the Idaho-Eastern Oregon Seed Association, Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club and the Idaho Honey Industry Association have already been invited.

Samantha Wright / Boise State Public Radio

Last year’s massive Soda Fire burned more than 400 square miles of rangeland in southwest Idaho and eastern Oregon. That includes the food source for the area's three wild horse herds.

Amy Meredith / Flickr Creative Commons

In an unprecedented move, Montana officials last week closed a 200-mile stretch of one of the most popular fisheries in the West. The Yellowstone River has been contaminated with a parasite that’s killed thousands of whitefish, the same parasite that continues to impact some Idaho rivers. 

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

The City of Boise is holding a celebration today for the opening of a new public works facility. But the facility isn’t in Boise. In fact, it’s a county away. And it’s meant to do something cities don’t normally do: Clean water polluted by agriculture. It’s called the Dixie Drain project and KBSX's Adam Cotterell has reported on it in the past. Adam told Scott Graf what the Dixie Drain project is.

Inciweb

It’s not clear yet what started the Cherry Road Fire Sunday afternoon. But what is clear is that dry brush and grass have fueled the flames, making for quickly changing conditions between Sunday and Monday.  

The fire is near the Idaho border, and has blown smoke into the Treasure Valley. A Type 2 firefighting team is now working to get control of the fire, which is threatening the popular Succor Creek State Park. 

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

We thought we'd put together a birthday gift to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial this Thursday, August 25. Help us make it by sharing your national park photos and memories!

How To Submit:

1. You can post your photo and description on this Facebook post.

2. You can reply to this Tweet with your photo and description.

Frankie Barnhill / Boise State Public Radio

Think of it as a giant bubble filled with wildfire smoke.

inciweb.gov

Three U.S. Senators were in Boise Monday to restate their support of legislation that would overhaul the way the nation pays for its biggest wildfires.

Senators Mike Crapo, R-ID, Jim Risch, R-ID, and Ron Wyden, D-OR, visited the National Interagency Fire Center for the third time in support of the proposal. 

Jerry McFarland / Flickr

Three environmental groups and two commercial fishing advocacy groups say they will file a lawsuit against the federal government over heat-related fish kills in the Columbia River Basin in the Pacific Northwest.

The groups on Monday sent a 60-day notice of their intent to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for what the groups say are violations of the Clean Water Act.

The groups say 250,000 adult sockeye salmon died in 2015 due to high temperatures in the Columbia River and lower Snake River.

Federal land managers on Thursday approved 10 more years of mining and a 500-acre expansion on public land in central Idaho for one of the largest molybdenum mines in the world.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service each issued decisions allowing the work at Thompson Creek Mine about 20 miles southwest of Challis.

At a mile wide and half a mile deep the open pit mine is the fourth-largest mine producing primarily molybdenum, though it falls a few notches when mines that also produce copper are included.

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