U.S. Highway 95 DEIS Opinion

Through excerpts of an interview originally aired on the Monday, January 14, Climate Justice Forum radio program, a local conservationist describes the flaws of a recently released draft environment impact statement (DEIS) proposal by the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to widen and reroute U.S. Highway 95 over Paradise Ridge south of Moscow.  Listen to Al Poplawski of Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition Critiques ITD Draft EIS Preferred Alternative Route on U.S. 95 Re-Alignment South of Moscow, broadcast between 9:45 and 1:43 of the Wednesday, January 16, 2013, KRFP Radio Free Moscow Evening Report, U.S. 95 EIS Opinion.

Highway 95 Forum and Field Trip

Don't Pave Paradise

On November 26, the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) approved a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) and technical reports on three alternatives for proposed realignment of U.S. Highway 95 between Thorn Creek Road and Moscow.  It published the DEIS in early January 2013 and scheduled a public information/comment hearing between 2 and 8:30 pm on Wednesday, January 23, at the Best Western University Inn, 1516 Pullman Road in Moscow, and a public comment period ending on February 23.  Of the three DEIS alternatives of 11 options considered by ITD – an eastern route climbing the western shoulder of scenic Paradise Ridge (E2), a central corridor realigning the middle section of the present 6.5-mile stretch of road (C3), and a western, longer route veering close to Washington (W4) – the ITD-preferred eastern alternative shifts the highway up 400 to 500 feet in elevation and 2,000 feet east, between the Primeland Cooperative grain elevators south of Moscow and the top of Reisenauer Hill.

This E2 route in the recently released DEIS mirrors alternative 10A in a previous environmental assessment (EA) of Highway 95 re-construction plans.  That 2002 version provoked regional citizen concerns for climate-related highway traveler safety, urban sprawl, area aesthetics, wetland preservation, and protection of rare remnants of native Palouse Prairie habitat and wildlife.  The Paradise Ridge Defense Coalition (PRDC) emerged and, along with the Palouse Group of the Sierra Club and the Idaho Conservation League, successfully challenged the EA, secured a 2003 injunction from U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, and forced ITD to complete the current DEIS review process mandated for all federal highway redesign projects that widen or re-route roadbeds.

A reactivated group of prior and new PRDC members have identified many potential environmental, economic, and social consequences of the purportedly shorter, faster, and safer eastern realignment of Highway 95.  Besides the same ongoing objections, they note that the DEIS E2 alternative would impose the greatest detrimental effects on pine stands, ungulate (deer, moose) conservation and collisions, endangered species, and ecosystem restoration.  It would also create more stream tributary crossings, impervious surfaces, and pollution runoff and challenge flood control.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have strongly recommended against this eastern Highway 95 corridor, likely advanced by ITD to accommodate international industrial traffic like tar sands megaloads. Continue reading

Snake River Oil and Gas Could Start Drilling in Payette County this Spring

Snake River Oil and Gas is testing three of its gas wells in Payette County.  Gas left over from the testing is flared off.

While 2012 was a year of acquisition and information gathering for Snake River Oil and Gas, 2013 is poised to be a year of drilling for natural gas in southwestern Idaho.

“We will probably start drilling in the spring,” said Richard Brown, CEO of Snake River Oil and Gas.  His company has close to 130,000 acres of gas and oil leases in Payette and Washington counties as well as seven productive wells.  Snake River bought the wells last year from Bridge Resources, which initially drilled the productive wells.

Along with buying the wells and negotiating leases with landowners, Snake River spent $14 million last year exploring its new holdings, using large, earth-shaking trucks and high tech sensors in the ground to get three-dimensional data on how natural gas is situated underground.  That data is still being analyzed.  It looks promising, according to company officials.  Now the company is testing three of its seven wells to learn more about the gas reservoir underneath the wells.  After that could come drilling to extract that gas.

If all goes well, the next step for the drillers would be building a pipeline to connect the wells.  They are close to the multi-state gas pipeline as well as Idaho Power’s new Langley Gulch gas-fired power plant near New Plymouth.  Brown speculates that pipeline work could start in the summer. Continue reading