Guardian Top Stories

What About The Council Districts?

Idaho’s legislature passed a law mandating that cities of more than 100,000 population have to elect city councilors from districts within the city.

In Boise an inordinate number of councilors live in the “Northend.” The GUARDIAN inquired of City Hall as to the progress officials are making toward compliance with the districts which will need to be established in 2021. We anticipate some councilors will be either moving or not running for reelection.

There are also likely to be some legal challenges from incumbents, but the main argument will be that there is a new system and those running will have to comply with the new law.

Here is the reply: “As the City moves forward in beginning to address how to create voting districts for the City of Boise, we are working to address questions from our city legal department around the implementation timeframe and its intersection with reapportionment following the 2020 Census.

In the interim, we encourage folks to reach out to Boise City Council members who will be working to adopt an ordinance with the specific framework for how the City will create the council districts, including whether there will be a committee or council created. We also expect to engage in community outreach in the near future to hear from Boise residents and voters about their wishes regarding this process.”

We won’t be surprised of Councilor Jerry Mander drafts a district map with five districts north of the river and a single district for the rest of the city.

RBG Boise Connection, Memorial

Tucked away next to the sign for a flyfishing shop on Vista Ave. in Boise is a small plaque and memorial to Sally Reed who once lived on the spot.

In 1971 Boise attorney Allen Derr joined efforts with then-lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the United States Supreme Court to strike a blow for women’s rights on behalf of Sally Reed. Ginsburg later became a Supreme Court Justice.

The Idaho Supremes had given preference to Reed’s former husband over the estate of their deceased son, preferring the male over mother. The case was reversed and became a land mark decision on behalf of women.

Within hours of Ginsburg’s death Friday, flowers were placed at the Sally Reed memorial along with thoughts and items to honor the two women.

GBAD To Hold Onto Cash, Ahlquist Asks City To Make “The Sky The Limit”

The Greater Boise Auditorium District held a special board meeting Tuesday in which they decided to hang onto their cash reserves until the COVID-19 and slow hotel and convention business did a “pivot.”

This came in the wake of an attempt by Tommy Ahlquist and his Ball Ventures Ahlquist development firm to recruit GBAD to join in a move to develop the county-owned fairgrounds into a commercial and residential project along with a ballpark.

Executive Director Pat Rice told the GUARDIAN, “The merits of the Stadium Project, or ANY project, is not the consideration but frankly the financial position of the District and conditions within the Hospitality Industry are. We can’t sacrifice the level of quality that’s been maintained at Boise Centre and while 2021 will remain a challenge, we have significant capital projects of $1.5-$2M over the next 2-3 years that will require the cash on hand. I do, however, project 2022 to be a phenomenal year and I hope that comes to fruition; we need to be ready.”

The GBAD board also sent a letter to Ahlquist saying they will not consider Ahlquist or anyone else who could cut into their cash position.

The GBAD letter: 90120 letter to tommy

Meanwhile there was more opposition to Ahlquist developments from Preservation Idaho over a proposed project on 4th Street between Idaho and Bannock. The advocacy group sent out an email to members Thursday asking members to write to the City opposing the rezone.

Ball Ventures Ahlquist seeks to rezone the area to allow “unlimited height restriction” in an area where the current height restriction on the property is 6 stories (65’).

On September 21 at 6PM, the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) will hold a hearing to review the Ball Ventures Ahlquist (BVA) proposal for a rezone to allow a 232-foot tower on 4th Street between Idaho and Bannock.

This will be a hybrid meeting that you can attend virtually or in person.

Scientist Warns About Waste Water In Canal

Richard Llewellyn, PhD Biochemistry

Boise City plans to dump water they claim is “treated” into the Farmers Union Canal and the practice could be costly for water users and property owners alike.

Turns out the water is laced with trace chemicals from dozens of sources and it just may lead to a massive government mandated clean up requirement. They like to use the term “water renewal,” but true renewal is costly and not in the plan.

That’s why an increasing number of water users are saying that the City of Boise’s plan to dispose of ‘forever chemicals’ into our region’s iconic irrigation canals needs a lot more serious review … before we give “America’s Most Livable City” a “forever headache”.

PFAS — per-and-polyfluoroalkyl substances — are a fancy way of saying the trace chemicals that end up in our wastewater that aren’t captured by our water treatment plants. Along with thousands of other chemicals from shampoos to birth control pills, antidepressants, and antibiotics, as well as the contaminants sent to the plants by industrial and medical facilities, these aren’t removed by wastewater treatment. They aren’t the pee, but they’re in the pee … and in many of the other stuff we send down the drain.

They don’t belong in our irrigation water … or in the crops and gardens that we grow with the vital water on which they depend. Nor do they belong in our groundwater, where our irrigation water ends up.

In a nutshell, the problem is that the chemical reality of wastewater has diverged so far from the standard treatment technology that it is plausible that just by irrigating with recycled water we could end up with property that exceeds future standards for hazardous designation. Hazardous–as in, you may need to excavate and truck your soil to a hazardous waste site before anyone will buy your land.

If that statement sounds incredibly far fetched then read on. Sewage treatment plants were designed to deal with sewage. A city like Boise does a good job with that and strives to do better. That alone isn’t easy, and requires significant long term investment especially as a city grows or infrastructure budgets fall. Search online and every week you will see a sewage spill somewhere across the country.

Today, however, municipal wastewater is not just sewage but a complex mixture of tens of thousands of chemicals. Many of these are ‘endocrine disruptors’–chemicals that mimic hormones and interfere with the body’s internal communication at trace levels. Collectively these substances are known as Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs). PFAS is one that has emerged like an 800-lb gorilla busting into a board room.

PFAS make up a family of thousands of related chemicals — fluorinated carbon chains that are used widely in industry to make oil- and water-resistant coatings. They are best known for their use in Teflon, but are also in fire-fighting foams, industrial coatings, stain resistant carpeting, and many consumer products. Eventually they end up concentrated in municipal wastewater.

Some top researchers conclude that essentially no amount of PFAS is safe in drinking water, and yet it is not regulated at the federal level, though many individual states have recently passed standards in the parts per trillion levels, and for soils in the parts per million to billion. Contamination from wastewater treatment plants are already triggering lawsuits — Orange County, California, for example, has started closing wells while considering a billion dollar lawsuit against chemical manufactures due to PFAS contamination they blame on treated municipal wastewater discharges upstream.

Because these ‘forever’ chemicals may take almost forever to degrade, a back of the envelope calculation gives us an idea of how much PFAS will be carried to your land, and how much can be expected to remain. For that, we have to deal with a few numbers, and a whole bunch of decimal points:

For every part per trillion (ppt) of PFAS in the effluent, you could get 2 milligrams of PFAS in the water used to irrigate one acre for one season, after accounting for dilution in the canal.

Once on your property, the chemicals will either leave in runoff, go down into the groundwater, up into plants, or remain in your soil. Each of the thousands of types of PFAS will move differently. Certain crops take them up more efficiently — for example corn has been found to store more than 12% of one kind of PFAS.

We’ll also assume you are a good steward and keep the water on your land in a small (24×24 foot) waterfowl marsh rather than letting it run off. For a rough calculation, let’s assume half of the added PFAS accumulates in the top yard of soil in that marsh.

This adds about PFAS 0.017 micrograms per kg soil per year for each 1 ppt PFAS in the effluent. And as it is likely that the effluent from Boise will have at least five ppt PFAS, multiply that by five. After the 25 year contract with Farmers Union Ditch Co, you could have about two micrograms in each kg of soil.

What does this mean for you? A microgram may be a tiny amount, but individual state soil standards enacted within the last few years have a vast range of thresholds — with one milligram per kg fairly common, but for areas that are easily accessible and drain to important groundwater, some levels are far lower — as low as half a microgram per kg. Crucially, there are currently no federal standards at all, but many experts assume that PFAS will soon be listed as a hazardous substance, either as individual chemicals or in groups.

If coming federal standards reflect the more stringent regulations, the seemingly preposterous is true–you could be faced with having hazardous soils within a decade simply by irrigating. And as good science supports the most strict standards, especially to protect the health of pregnant women and children–the real issue will be whether it is feasible to enforce them.

The WateReuse Association, a member of which Boise has contracted to advise on using recycled water, is energetically lobbying all levels of government that the wastewater industry be exempt from any PFAS liability. The question remains as to whether those of us who continue using our shares of water as we have for more than a century will also be exempt — and whether we can convince any future buyer that they will be too.

This is just a back of the envelope calculation, but it shows that a serious investigation is needed. One might assume that an agency will do it for us — but, as an Idahoan, it should come as no shock that you need to look out for yourself and for your neighbors: Idaho DEQ recently granted the City of Nampa a similar water recycling permit for the Phyllis Canal, and PFAS was not mentioned once.

Be sure to comment to Boise City Council this Sept 15 to voice your concerns on any future plan for water reuse.

Ada Officials Scammed By Developer

A GUARDIAN reader expressed concerns with the Tommy Ahlquist-Greenstone attempt to corner the market on Expo Idaho (Fairgrounds) to the Ada County Development Services.

The reader got this well reasoned and measured response Monday:

First and foremost, I want to make the following very clear: the co-chairs did NOT meet with Tommy Alquist’s company, nor have they formally heard any proposals from any private developers. BVA reached out to the committee wanting to present, and the committee declined, stating it would not be appropriate at this time, as the committee is still in the middle of their process. We invited BVA to submit comment through our project e-mail like everyone else.

Prior to our meeting with the committee this week, the co-chairs have been meeting with some key informants identified by the committee as groups they wanted more information from. One of those groups is the Hawks. When the team reached out to set up the meeting with the Hawks, they asked if BVA could come present this plan. The co-chairs again told them no, and that they only wanted to hear from the Hawks.

When the co-chairs joined the meeting on Friday, the Hawks had invited BVA to join and present, unbeknownst to us. In the interview, which you can find here, the co-chairs clearly state that they are not there to hear a development proposal. Throughout the meeting, they reiterate this and focus on the Hawks and their current stadium. They did not allow Tommy Alquist and his team to present their proposal, but Alquist had already reached out to reporters and told them he was presenting to us, so unfortunately, the damage was already done before we even knew about it.

This committee is committed to a public process, which they will reiterate at their meeting on Wednesday. The public is welcome to comment through the established process above by e-mailing our project e-mail, as you have done. It is very frustrating that BVA has tried to side-step this process by talking to the press and coming uninvited to our meetings, and I am sorry if it has appeared that our process has been biased or unfair; we are working very hard to keep that from happening. We are not considering this proposal at this time, and will not consider any private development proposals until the public has indicated what they would like to see on the property.

Brianna Bustos
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Ada County Development Services

The Boise Guardian

…is a fun, factual, informed and opinionated look at current news and events in and around Boise, Idaho. The Guardian was born of necessity.

Get the Guardian by email

Enter your email address: